In the middle of a long day in Washington DC I watched as my father walked up the sidewalk, walking past the carefully formed life-sized statues of men in combat gear, I watched him march at the memorial to men of war, men who fought years ago for people they did not know.
I watched as he marched flanked by flags carried by old men in light blue jackets and followed by a group of South Korean college students, solemnly walking behind paying homage to strangers who had given lives for their very own freedom.
Veteran’s Day in D.C. is amazing. The President of our country standing at the tomb of an unknown, old and young men and women walking with old medals on new jackets carrying old flags and wreaths marching proudly and solemnly grounds you, it helps you focus on how perilous our journey can be.
My parents and I spent the day at Arlington Cemetery, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, at the Women in Military Service Memorial and finally at the Korean War Memorial. I saw countless men and women in uniform, I saw countless veterans from all branches of service of all ages, I saw them remembered and thanked as they remembered the great service they had given a free nation.
I watched as young South Koreans came up to my father and ask if they could shake his hand, if they could give him a hug. These young men and women came to the USA to learn and they spent part of their day listening, intently listening, as old men described a war where so many died yet so few remember.
I listened as Tim one of the flag bearers talked of Busan and a cemetery where 10,000 American soldiers were buried and only recently have had their remains returned to their homes. I listened to the moaning sounds of Taps played to mark too many deaths, I listened to my own father talk of this largely forgotten war, I listened as a South Korean general talk of his grateful country, I watched as strangers from England and South Korea and the US listened to these men commemorate their personal histories.
Mostly I sat in a certain amount of awe and tremendous gratitude as people, perfect strangers, came up to my father, a man I never knew as a soldier but was my hero anyway, looked him in the eyes and said thank you.
At the airport as we sat and waited for our airplane home a large muscular young man sat across from us. I watched him as he stared at my father, he was a big dude with tattoos covering his right arm and with tattoos of large bullets tattoos on his calves, he kept staring and I kept thinking, what is up with this guy.
When his plane was called the guy got up, walked up to my father, extended his hand and said he just wanted to say thanks. He said he was a marine and his guys, his compatriots all thought that those old guys who served, who fought, who risked their lives, they all looked on those old guys as legends.
It’s amazing….I’m 61 and I finally know, I'm the son of a legend, Marty would be proud.