I was introduced to a song, “After the War,” several years ago. The song is moving, especially to those who lost someone in Vietnam. It may be even more moving for those who visited the Vietnam memorial to find their loved one’s name. For me, it turned out to be the harbinger of a special event yet to come. You see, I met someone in 2016 who could almost be the person about which this song was written.
Our meeting was one of those “coincidences” or “God taps” in a way. The guy was seeking information on my brother. David died in Vietnam, and this fellow was asking about him. His first inquiry was to my sister-in-law. She listed information about David on findagrave.com, and the guy saw it. When he reached out, she was concerned and let me know a complete stranger inquired about David.
Initially, I thought it might be a scam. So, I decided to do a bit of investigating. After all, issues of stolen valor, stolen identity, and fraud using the names of the deceased are not that uncommon. As it turned out, the gentleman’s motives were well-intentioned and appropriate. So, I gave him all of the information he needed to help honor my brother’s memory on the Virtual Vietnam Memorial Wall.
Later, we had the opportunity to meet and share stories about David. It was something unexpected and very meaningful in ways one could hardly imagine. To this day, we continue to stay in touch, and hopefully, we will be able to meet again in the future.
Today, in this short piece, I just wanted to acknowledge Robert and others who faced the same circumstances. I can only imagine what it would have been like to serve and fight by someone’s side by side, only to have your superiors send you in different directions. Of course, you’d tell each other the day would come when you could meet again, hopefully under more peaceful circumstances.
You’d part thinking about the future reunion and all the stories you could share. You’d carry those thoughts and memories waiting for the day your service was completed. Of course, reality sets in at some point, and promises made are not kept for one reason or another. That reality does not include finding your old friend, but it does include your memories of times past.
Finally, you come to the point in life where you need to remember those days from your youth. You need to travel back to those years in memory at least, and you want to pay your respects to those who never came home. There, at The Wall, you are retracing steps in your mind. You find the names of those you lost, and remember the promise you couldn’t keep. Then, almost as if by the hand of fate, you find a name you did not expect. A promise has been fulfilled, though not as you expected.
If you’ve not taken the time to watch any of the other videos this Memorial Day week, watch this one. While doing so, remember the tens of thousands of soldiers over the years who made promises to reunite with friends only to find that impossible. It was not impossible because they didn’t want to reconnect. It was not impossible because they forgot their promise. It was impossible because the buddy they sought never made it home.
*This links to a video of the song being performed at the Vietnam Memorial in 1991: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MEikb8ZgY30&list=RDrxn0EKnPS-I&index=2