I live in Branson, Missouri. You may have heard of it. We have a bit of a reputation of being a live music mecca.
We also do Veterans Week really well. We love our Veterans. They are a special breed. We honor them every day, but Veteran's Day is so special to us we turned it into a week.
Back about eleven years or so ago, the traveling Viet Nam Wall was here for our celebration. It went to several different sites over the next few years.
It finally landed at the Lawerence Welk theatre. They hosted it every year after that. Last year they purchased it and it is then assured of being here every Veterans week in Branson.
When the wall is here they have readers read the names on the wall from a directory they have. The names are in alphabetical order with name, rank, service branch, dob and dod and hometown. In honor of those who gave all they want them read aloud. You don't have to shout, just read as though talking to someone, and in essence you are. You are reading to the boys who gave all.
You are telling the boys that someone cares. That someone remembers, even if for those few days in November.
It can be humbling. Knowing that all the boys, whether 17 or 47, went there with the hope of returning and they didn't. They knew it was a possibility, but we all know there is a possibility that we won't return from any journey however big or small.
They knew it was a possibility when they went.
When they landed they knew it was a probability.
When they saw their buddy next to them fall dead, they felt they may be next. For some they were.
You read these names as much for the buddies who survived as for the ones who didn't.
You read for the girlfriends, mothers, fathers, siblings and off-spring.
You read for yourself. Even if you don't think that is why you are going to do it. After you are there and have read a few, you know. It is for you.
I had thought of volunteering to do this for a few years. But, you know, you think, ah, they don't need ME. There are plenty of others able and willing. Let them. Or rather, honor them with the pleasure. I knew I would enjoy doing it, but one thing lead to another, and I didn't.
Then last year I met the lady who sets up the readers. She is a new member of my congregation. She put out a plea for readers. I thought about it.
Didn't do it.
This year, when the plea went out, and it does in the paper and in my case to my Bible class, I told my husband I wanted to do it. He said sign up, I will get you there.
I called her and said do you still need readers. She said yes.
I signed up for a half-hour in the early afternoon. It was one of the spots she was having trouble filling.
The weather was nice, cool. Did I say you read the names outside near the wall? So, you dress for the weather.
They have a tent-room from which to read. It is open on the sidewalk side, but closed on the other three, helping to protect from the wind.
They offer us coffee.
When I got there, a man was still reading and I took over from him.
It is easy. You just read the names and the info.
And then, you notice someone standing in front of you. You look up. He meets your eye, puts out his hand and says, " Thank You." Then you notice the tears in his eyes and the Viet Nam patch he wears. And you thank him.
Thank you to all of you who have served, either in the military or in support of the family while they serve. Thank you especially to those of you have lost a loved one while serving in the military.