Many great moments were to come and pass with my boys as I tried to create memories for them, especially at the DC monuments around 1995. With cheap airfares for four to a few East Coast dates, we had to fly in and out of Baltimore. The last gig of that "weekend with dad" would now require a three-hour drive from Norfolk, Va. at midnight to make the early flight home - unless they agreed to the alternative.
"Guys, to make our 7:30 a.m. flight home out of Baltimore, we'll have to leave right after the gig, drive straight to the airport and get there about 3:00 a.m. We can get a room for about 2 hours, then get up to turn in the car, catch the plane..." I delivered this lousy news before our Father's Day show that night in Norfolk. They listened attentively, as I added, "Or, we could go to downtown DC in the middle of the night, spend a few hours at the monuments and see the Vietnam Wall and visit Viet Nam vets."
They all excitedly agreed "THE MONUMENTS! Then to the plane!" I was blessed with great kids, and we just saved about $300 on rooms.
One thing about DC at 2:30 a.m. then was that you could park right next to the Lincoln Memorial, and that's next to The Wall. At The Wall, with night fog rolling around us, I told my boys how the statues represented guys who were not much older than they, and how many met their deaths at this terrible mistaken venture. It was amazing to see my young men respectfully talking with and studying the vets who maintained their overnight vigil in their various booths, questioning them about life's experiences.
Then, one of the strangest events in my life occurred. I wanted to make the point about how war is a terrible thing, how government "things" should be kept track of, how there's always an "over there" over there somewhere and young people get sent to fight the old men's wars. I wanted to make it believably sink in not knowing exactly how. Pointing at the names, I randomly placed my finger on the wall, saying: "A lot of these guys were 18-21 years old, and when they got over there most did not know why. They fought for their lives and lost. My name could have been up here. And I …" As I continued on to make my point, one of the boys said, "Hey, Dad, look at the name you're pointing at."
I looked at the name my finger was on: McEuen. I was a bit (okay, more than a bit) freaked out at this happenstance. AND, I recognized the first name, and I stopped talking. As my surprised brood watched, I looked up his information on the name register there.
"I thought so. Guys, one day when I was 18, I frantically opened my mail because it was my draft notice, and I hadn't even had my physical yet! This guy on the wall was two years ahead of me and lived two blocks from me in Garden Grove when I was in high school. But, like some of his other mail had often done, his draft notice had come to my house that day by mistake. I took it over to his house. He wasn't home, so I gave it to his mother. She thanked me. Ronald was over there 2 months when his trip ended. He was 24."
The point was made. I wanted to thank him for helping me, for after that brief moment when I thought it was my draft notice, I realized mine wasn't too far away. It was that week I started working on my 1-Y; he had literally helped me dodge a bullet, and I felt guilty 15 years later.
They then realized it could have been me, and if it had, they wouldn't have existed.
Again, Jonathan said, "Dad, is this ever weird for you?"
Yes, it was good for me, too.