From The Other Side

 

By Patrick Camunes
Used with permission

At first there was no place for us to go until someone put up that Black Granite Wall.
Now, everyday and night, my Brothers and my Sisters wait to see the many people
from places afar file in front of this Wall. Many stopping briefly, and many for hours,
and some that come on a regular basis. It was hard at first, not that it's gotten any easier,
but it seems that many of the attitudes towards that war that we were involved in have
changed. I can only pray that the ones on the other side have learned something and
more Walls as this one, needn't be built.

Several members of my unit and many that I did not recognize have called me to The
Wall by touching my name that is engraved upon it. The tears aren't necessary but are
hard even for me to hold back. Don't feel guilty for not being with me, my Brothers.
Touch The Wall, my Brothers, so that we can share in the memories that we had. I
have learned to put bad memories aside and remember only the pleasant times we
had together. Tell our other Brothers out there to come and visit me, not to say
Good-Bye but to say Hello and be together again, even for a short time and to ease
the pain of loss that we all share.

Today, an irresistible and loving call comes from The Wall. As I approach I can see an
elderly lady, and as I get closer I recognize her…It's Momma! As much as I have
looked forward to this day, I have also regretted it because I didn't know
what reaction I would have.

Next to her, I suddenly see my wife and immediately think how hard it must have
been for her to come to this place, and my mind floods with the pleasant memories
of thirty years past. There's a young man in a military uniform standing with his arms
around her… My God!…It has to be my son. Look at him trying to be the man
without a tear in his eye. I yearn to tell him how proud I am, seeing him standing
tall, straight and proud in his uniform.

Momma comes closer and touches The Wall, and I feel the soft and gentle touch I had
not felt in so many years. Dad has crossed to this side of The Wall, and through our
touch, I try to convey to her that Dad is doing fine and is no longer suffering or
feeling pain. I see my wife's courage building as she sees Momma touch The Wall, and
she approaches and lays her hand on my waiting hand. All the emotions, feelings and
memories of three decades past flash between our touch and I tell her that it's all right.
Carry on with your life and don't worry about me, and a big burden has
been lifted from her.

I watch as they lay flowers and other memories of my past. My lucky charm that was
taken from me and sent to her by my CO, a tattered and worn teddy bear that I can
barely remember having as I grew up as a child, and several medals that I had earned
and was presented to my wife. One of them is the Combat Infantry Badge that I am
very proud of, and I notice that my son is also wearing this medal. I had earned mine
in the jungles of Vietnam, and he had probably earned his in the desserts of Iraq.

I can tell that they are preparing to leave and I try to take a mental picture of them
together, because I don't know when I will see them again. I wouldn't blame them if
they were not to return, and can only thank them that I was not forgotten. My wife and
Momma near The Wall for one final touch, and so many years of indecision, fear and
sorrow are let go. As they turn to leave I feel my tears that had not flowed for so
many years, form as if dew drops on the other side of The Wall.

They slowly move away with only a glance over their shoulder. My son suddenly
stops and slowly returns. He stands straight and proud in front of me and snaps
a salute. Something makes him move to The Wall, and he puts his hand upon The
Wall and touches my tears that had formed on the face of The Wall, and I can tell
that he senses my presence there, and the pride and the love that I have for him.
He falls to his knees and the tears flow from his eyes and I try my best to reassure
him that it's alright and tears do not make him any less of a man. As he moves
back, wiping the tears from his eyes, he silently mouths, God Bless You,
Dad…God Bless YOU, Son…We WILL meet someday, but in the meantime,
go on your way…There is no hurry…There is no hurry at all.

As I see them walk off in the distance, I yell out to THEM and EVERYONE there
today, as loud as I can…THANKS FOR REMEMBERING, and as others on this
side of The Wall join in, I notice that the U.S. Flag that so proudly flies in front of us
everyday, is flapping and standing proudly straight out in the wind today…
THANK YOU FOR REMEMBERING…

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