by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D
It has been a really long Memorial Day Week and we are truly exhausted.
For the last six days we have been privileged to be a part of bringing the large version (80%) Traveling Vietnam Wall to Fort Collins,Colorado. The city of Fort Collins put in its request back in 2003 to host this special event over Memorial Day Weekend. With extensive planning throughout the last six months, the Veterans Plaza Committee of Northern Colorado wondered how many people might visit the Wall and pay homage to all who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country.
Our answer came and all were humbled.
Thousands came daily. They came to pay their respects. They came to pray. And some came to simply heal a bit more. Seeing the names of classmates and friends lost in battle is sad indeed, but viewing the names of fallen comrades with whom you served is far more profound.
I watched as young children were educated about how all those names got on the structure. One small child innocently asked, “You mean they are all dead?” For this tiny boy it was hard to comprehend such a large number. For those who served it was even harder to comprehend and accept once again the huge price of war.
The Vietnam Wall is more than a memorial. It is a reminder to our nation of what we did wrong in welcoming our young men and women back after serving overseas. That lesson, I believe has been learned. However, there is so much further we need to grow. As our military returns from war, as a nation we need to make sure that they are comforted, healed, and given work that will allow them to have a solid future. And we need to make sure we are more aware of those veterans and families who have endured a great deal in the name of freedom. They are the silent minority and too many are finding it gut-wrenching hard to reintegrate back into their communities.
After observing the thousands of individuals who visited the Traveling Vietnam Wall these last many days, I truly believe we, as a community/nation, have the will to accomplish this task of human restoration.
What is hard, is taking the time during our very busy days to notice what needs to be done and then do it. Each small step we take moves all of us closer to a healthier and more humane nation.
God does truly bless America when we take the time to meet the needs of others.
by Tony & Janet Seahorn
It is Sunday afternoon, and the end of a long and humbling Veteran’s Day week. The weather changes quickly from wind, to clouds, to warm sunshine and finally a few drizzles. It seems to be mirroring the lives of many of the individuals attending the opening dedication of the Northern Colorado Veteran’s Plaza. Most of the attendees are veterans spanning several generations of war. They, like the day’s weather, have lived with the clouds of battle, the warmth of joy, and at times a torrent of tears.
Those tears were the beginning of the dedication. The bridge which transports people from the main roadway into the park, now home to the new Veteran’s Plaza, was consecrated as Sergeant Nick Walsh Way. Sergeant Walsh died in Iraq in 2007. His parents, family, and fellow Marines watched as the new signage was unveiled; it was evident that the Price of Freedom has to be incredibly steep for those who serve along with their families who sacrifice along with them. Perhaps the bridge will serve as a reminder of hope – a transition from sorrow to comfort and from death to strength.
The Veteran’s Plaza is not a memorial to those who died. No, this sacred ground extends far beyond a loss. The Plaza will serve as a reminder of unselfish sacrifice and courage. It is a place where present and future generations can go to reflect on the courage of others and learn from their past. The garden is filled with soils from battlegrounds throughout our history: Iwo Jima, Normandy, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan… This special earth, once stained from the carnage of different wars, now supports the plants that flourish showing us again that biblical saying, “from death into life”.
Now, for the best part of this story — the Veteran’s Plaza was the dream of one man, Major Diggs Brown, a Special Forces Veteran living in Fort Collins, CO. He was inspired to make a difference after attending the funeral of Sergeant Walsh.
Soon thereafter, he gathered community members, veterans and numerous organizations and created a “Plaza” committee. The group worked tirelessly for two years, soliciting donations, holding fundraisers, brainstorming and promoting the vision.
Today was a testimony to what an idea can become with planning, hard work, creativity, and most of all, a Dream.