We arrived at the Vietnam Memorial Wall before the sun came up. It was as if people just appeared out of the dark to gather in front of a specific panel and huddle together for warmth. As the sun peeked up, the bagpipes began to play and the honor guard stood at the top of the wall presenting the flag. The fall leaves were a beautiful backdrop. Hal Moore and Joe Galloway took turns reading out the names of the men who died in the Ia Drang Valley. You could hear the leaves rustle. I don’t think anyone could keep tears from falling. After roll call, the men who fought together hugged each other. Some ran their fingers over the names of fallen buddies as if that would bring them closer. Maybe they were praying for their wives and children or moms and dads. It was another life changing experience that I will never forget.
A little later, Jeff walked us over to the Korean Memorial. It, too, was very impressive at dawn. Then as the sun began to rise, we walked to the Lincoln Memorial. What a perfect time to see such sights – sun rising and no one else around – it was beautiful. It was also very cold, and we moved on to I-HOP to meet up with the Barker Clan for breakfast. We needed the fuel for our serious sight seeing. We left the Barkers on their own.
Jeff, Jesse, and I hit the sights hard, but there is just so much to see. I could have spent all day just in the art museums. Jesse could have spent all day in the air and space museum – in fact we did spend lots of time there. We probably did spend too much time in the Archives, but it was a fun time. Jeff found us a funky little place to eat lunch. He was very accommodating taking us to see things, and giving us great tid-bits of info. It all made the day very special. I always have this idea of trying to "soak up" the feelings and sights knowing that I may never get to experience these things again. It was a constant feeling when we were in Rome several years ago. It is as if you want to take the feelings and pack them away with you so that when you are plowing a field or something in Oklahoma, you can just reach inside yourself and pull out those memories of new and wonderful experiences.
That evening we went out to an Irish Pub where musicians were playing Irish music – of course, we had a pint. Being with the Barker clan is always a party. It was a perfect day.