Today the “Run for the Wall” arrived at the Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center in Tuscaloosa, AL. As you can see from the photograph, I was there. Standing next to me was my boss, a retired Lt. Col. (nicknamed a “Light Colonel”). We had a chance to talk. I mentioned to him the Viet Nam Memorial (THE WALL) and my reaction to the first time I went. I got teary-eyed back then and looked for the any names I might recognize during the years that I served. He admitted that he, also, became teary-eyed when he first went to THE WALL.
The Run for the Wall people make it one of their priorities to try to stop at VA hospitals during their ride to visit the veterans and to encourage them. I was standing by the side of the road with a flag and many VA employees and veterans when the motorcycle veterans rode by. There were several hundred riders. My photograph shows only some of them. They kept coming minute after minute. But, you know what? On the other side of me (from my boss) was a criminal investigator for the Office of the Inspector General. Yes, these are the same people who revealed the IRS scandal that is being investigated and about whom Congressional inquiries are being held. They are not normally emotional and are fully focused on their charge and their duty. And you know what? He was waving his flag and looking teary-eyed as well.
I saw white riders, black riders, Latino riders, Native-American riders, etc. How do I know? They carried flags or signs that spoke about their background. But, they were united, united in the recognition that they were all fellow veterans. You know what? I got teary-eyed again. Here was a vision of unity. I am sure that some were Democrats, some were Republicans, some were Libertarians, and some were independent. But, they mutually recognized each other and the sacrifices they made for their country. How do I know?
I know because I met the “Veteran of the Year” of Viet Nam Veterans of America in the State of Alabama. I spoke to him. His background is conservative, Bible-believing, fundamentalist, Southern, Bible-belt. But, a fellow veteran is a fellow veteran. He may not agree with his fellow veteran, but he honors his fellow veteran. He supports his fellow veteran. And, when he discusses issues with his fellow veteran, he remembers that the man/woman next to him served under adverse conditions. I wish more of us were willing to have that attitude.
So, today was a good day, a day to honor veterans and a day to honor those who have been willing to give their lives for their country.