When a stone is thrown into a pond, the impact of that force reaches every edge of it. In the same way a single tragedy affects a family and the whole community around it–the loss of one life spreads to many people. After the opening ceremonies of the 25th anniversary of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial I realized I was one of those people affected by loss from nearly 50 years ago. Days afterward I was still feeling the impact of hearing the Reading of the Names. I believe this is only the fourth time in the history of the memorial that the names of over 58,000 men and women who died or were missing-in-action were read aloud.
I had the opportunity to work on a video package for USA TODAY about the 25th anniversary. Even while editing the piece I would stop, take a breath and sometimes cry listening to the names of those who gave their lives for our country. Listening to name after name took me past the intangible numeric 58,000 and into the tangible–the true cost of one life.
I had the opportunity to collaborate and receive great editing and sequencing input from Steve Elfers, the Director of Video at USA TODAY for this piece. I am very proud of this short video story about a father and his son from California who came to honor his father by reading his name aloud. See the video at the top of this page on USA TODAY.com.
Last night (Saturday) I went back to the memorial to get a rubbing of my Great-Uncle Air Force Lt. Col Paul E. Garrett. He died March 08, 1969. I found his name on panel 29 on the West side of the memorial. I was named after my mother’s family name, Garrett.
Afterward, one the the volunteers whom I interviewed days earlier came up to me and asked me if I wanted to take it one step further and read some of the names. I agreed and waited in line for a few minutes and read the names of about 30 veterans who died for our country. As I stood in line with the graphite rubbing of my Great-Uncle’s name and the list of names I felt like I was would surely be consumed by my emotions when I went up to read at the podium. at 7:58 p.m. it was my time and I walked up to the single podium under the lights and began to pay tribute.