Honoring Soldiers Past and Present

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Now that classes are over, I have been working full time at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. It has been a lot of fun, although I am so happy to see my bed every evening! And May 26th in the UK was Bank Holiday Monday, but for the US it was Memorial Day. Now all I knew about Memorial Day before I came out here was that it is the start of the summer (thanks to the TV Programme Revenge) and you can officially start wearing white trousers and skirts (weird rule I think!) At work we held a nationwide competition to ask students what Memorial Day meant to them. For the US many see it as a 3 day weekend, or a chance to buy a cheap mattress.
But Memorial Day is much more than that; it is a day to remember the men and women who died while serving in the countries armed forces. i-hzZJqjc-M The Vietnam Wall holds 58,000 names and we try often to educate people on the war. One of the ways we are doing this is the creation of an Education Centre which will be built by 2019. Part of this centre will also house information on the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This Memorial Day weekend we honoured them with a National Reading of the Names of all soldiers who have died in the War on Terror. i-KHmxxZ3-L 6790 names were read on Saturday May 24th and was the culmination of hours of work at the VVMF. The Secretary of Defence, Secretary of the Army and former head of the CIA were to name but a few of the many people who read names. And this was nothing in comparison to the mothers, siblings and children who were reading loved ones names. By 9:15 I was already a blubbering mess, listening to a Gold Star Mother recite the moment she heard her son had passed away. i-jCN73Fj-M i-cxXcR4M-M Granted I had been working since 4:30am so I was already exhausted. My day lasted 16 hours, which to anyone else seems insane – however it flew by. I didn’t want to stop and wanted to keep everything going to plan and helping wherever I could, because I felt so strongly about this event. I also ended up reading 15 names to fill a spot we had left open. I plan to find out about all of them and the lives they had before they were cruelly taken:
1. CRAIG LEWIS NELSON
2. OSCAR SANCHEZ
3. DAMIEN THAI FICEK
4. JASON EDWARD SMITH
5. JEFF LEBRUN
6. BRIAN PATRICK PARRELLO
7. PEDRO ANTONIO MUNOZ
8. THOMAS EUGENE HOUSER
9. JEREMY ROBERT WRIGHT
10. JIMMY DALE BUIE
11. CORY RAMSEY DEPEW
12. JOSHUA SAMUEL MARCUM
13. JEREMY WAYNE MCHALFFEY
14. BENNIE JAMES WASHINGTON
15. CURTIS LORENZA WOOTEN, III

Not only was I lucky enough to meet the Secretary of the Army (although by 5pm I did not look my best) i-w6qnHbL-M, I also meant the UK Attaché from the British Embassy who read names at 11am. i-b5hR3kX-M Although I had to work on a Saturday, and was deliriously tired by 8:30pm, it was worth every minute.

I had a bit of a reprieve on Sunday but Monday morning it was back to work. This time it was at 5:45am (a lie in in comparison to Saturday) for our annual Memorial Day Ceremony. Held at 1pm at the Vietnam Wall, attendance usually totals 1000. And on Monday the sun was blazing! Hitting over 30c, I reapplied sun cream 6 times in 4 hours! And also now have terrible tan lines on my feet! Everything came together though, with many Vietnam Veteran’s sitting in the audience to remember those who were lost. So although I missed out on the Memorial Day barbeques, and the 3 day weekend, I wouldn’t have changed a minute of it. And it just made me 1) even more proud of my Dad for what he does and 2) grateful that I haven’t ever had to endure the pain that these families went through.

Happy Memorial Day to all UK Forces, who aren’t honoured nearly enough… i-HCd6qXG-M i-jDvg8ZL-M

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