I met Yusef, some years ago. In the mountains, home to Fishtrap and Mirror Lake. Write, he said. Tell your father’s story, so they’ll remember. And so I did. But they don’t remember him, not like I do.
Made me want to cry.
Arlis: That’s because you have a heart that connects with others. Just spoke to a man on the plane who told me about his first visit to this memorial and how it moved him to tears, even tho he doesn’t know a single soul on that Wall. It’s the names. God was right. There is something powerful about naming something. I think when people see those names they realize that behind each one lies an untold story.
The brilliance of the Wall is that the names are chronological, not alphabetical. That way, each stands full and complete. Your “Smith” is not lost among a sea of 600 others. Chronological listing tells stories no other system could. In the middle of panel 48E, line 20, is the name of my friend and classmate, Wesley W. Sperling, KIA 5 April 68. Not until 34 years later did I learn of Wes’ relationship to the name above his, James A. Pemberton. James, a medic, was already mortally wounded when Wes went to get him. Wes gave his life not for freedom or any of the political causes we assign later but for human remains. Wes was short, had been reassigned, and likely didn’t even know James. But he knew that sometimes remains are all a family gets back. For that, he gave all that he had. On the Wall, Wes is still trying to carry James. He always will. Touch them both for me, please. Thanks.
Make that 37 years. Time passes faster than we know.