"Sharing can be a way of healing. Grief and loss can isolate,
anger even alienate. Shared with others, emotions unite
as we see we aren't alone. We realize others weep with us."
~Susan Wittig Albert

Through our writing, we walk out of the darkness into the light
together, one small step at a time, recording history, educating
America, and we are healing.
~CJ/Todd Dierdorff

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Their Selfless Gift

This article comes from the teenage son of a very good friend. When his mother told him about this blog and who it was for, this memory was offered freely. No one had to coax him. I'm proud to introduce Ryan Streck:

Their Selfless Gift
by Ryan Streck


When I was in the eighth grade, I was fortunate enough to be able to go on a school trip to Washington D.C. during my spring break. Several of my classmates and I were on our way to tour the various monuments and historical sites of D.C. Many parts of this trip were uneventful, and there was a lot of standing in line, but there was one memorial that I will remember for the rest of my life.

On the third day of our trip, we had the privilege of visiting the Constitution Gardens. A memorial located there, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, was without a doubt, the highlight of my whole trip. The Wall was some 246 feet wide, and around 10 feet tall, and something that I will never forget.

For those of you who don’t know, and have never been there, the wall is covered with the names of 58,000 soldiers killed in Vietnam. Never before had I witnessed such a monument of pure selflessness. These men and women gave their lives to protect our natural freedoms, and those who were lucky enough to make it home still had a long war left to fight. They were not given the respect that they deserved. People often treated them like criminals and low-lifes. People were ignorant of the horrors that these men and women had witnessed at war.

Many of the veterans who experienced these awful things still cannot talk about their experiences. The things they had seen were unspeakable and already buried deep within themselves. Then as they returned home, they were treated as if it were all for naught, leaving an even greater scar than from anything they saw in South East Asia.

Here I was, a 14-year-old young man, brought to D.C. to witness such a monument of pure self-giving. These were all soldiers who never survived to know that someone, someday, years later would say, “I’m proud of those men and women”.

Gazing upon the wall, I realized standing there, that of all the horrors in this world, humanity can perhaps be the worst. How can we treat someone so giving in such a horrible way? I had a sudden impulse to reach out and touch all of the names, as if I could shake the hand of every soldier whose name was etched before me, engraved into the black marble.

It was at that moment that I knew I could never undo the wrongdoings and treachery of the past. But I also knew that there would now be a future to look forward to because of them, and that future is now much brighter for our present soldiers and veterans. Right then, I knew I wanted to devote my life to educating young adults someday about America’s past and why this mistreatment should never and will never happen again.

Ryan Streck

Thank you, Ryan, for sharing your story.
Hugs to you,

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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  1. Ryan,
    You are absolutely right about a returning Veteran. They sometimes share stories amongst themselves, leaving bits and pieces of their story out either by obvious omission or memory lapse. But there are also times late in the evenings, on a certain day or after a certain smell that they wish there was someone who would be there to listen, someone who knew, someone who will say "I'm here as long as you want me". Keeping their spirit alive is what they need and to never feel that their service was in vain.
    Thank you for writing.
    Craig Latham
    101st Airborne Division (Ambl)
    Phu Bai, S. Vietnam

  2. Ryan,
    Your words are very profound and left me with chills and tears in my eyes.
    I have not had the opportunity to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, but hope to one day. I have always had the utmost respect for all veterans but especially, Vietnam Veterans, I am not sure why Vietnam Verterans especially, but probably because of the horrors that they endured and the treatment they recieved when they made it home.
    Thank you for sharing such a touching tribute to those veterans.
    Tricia Dawson


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