As has become my custom, on the real Memorial Day, May 30th, of each year I crank up the old Harley Davidson and head out to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial just off the interstate in Sharon, Vermont. I go there to “speak” with some old buddies who did not make it home or are otherwise no longer with us. It is a sad but peaceful time for me and my memories. The memorial is a beautiful place—understated in the true Vermont fashion. I don’t go there to talk about the war but rather the good old times before or apart from the hell that raged around us those many years ago.
This year it was a cool late spring day with wisps of clouds in the sky and very few other visitors. I parked the bike, took off my helmet, and put on my stars and stripes “dew rag.” As I walked past the side of the visitor center on my way to the memorial itself, a lady of about my age in a pretty white eyelet shirtwaist dress smiled as I passed by and said “Thank you” as I passed by. “Certainly ma’am,” I replied. I continued on to the memorial itself, tastefully somewhat removed from the visitor center, and sat on the low wall beside the MIA plaque embedded in the ground. The memories flooded in, as they always have, and I suspect and hope they always will. Sometimes I laughed and sometimes I cried—mostly I just missed my pals.
After a few minutes I stood up and walked around the circle of stones and paused for one last moment at the entrance. I drew myself up as straight as I could, sucked in my 64-year-old gut and tried to look as sharp as we all once did when at attention. A crisp salute and I turned around to leave. There, standing before me, was the lovely lady from out by the front of the visitor center, her long blond hair streaked with silver and white skirt blowing in the breeze. She looked at me for a moment and then softly said, “May I have a hug?” “You certainly may,” I replied. We held each other closely for a long moment and then she backed gently away, still holding onto my arms. A bright smile came over her pretty face through a sea of tears. “My guy didn’t come home,” she said, but then added sweetly, “But I’m glad you did.” We held each other once again and then quietly walked to my bike holding hands. We paused by the bike and then she turned slightly and said, “Now you take care, soldier boy.” I lowered my head, paused for a moment, wiped my eyes, and said, “Yes ma’am,” but she was gone.
I believe that love and healing comes to us all if we will only take its hand and believe.