10 years ago I was giving the whole college thing a second try, and about to begin an internship with then Sen. Jeff Bingaman. My first weekend in D.C. was Memorial Day, and I had managed to get a pass to the dedication of the National World War II Memorial.
I’ve told that story before.
Much has changed in the past decade. The crowd that day was vast (more than 150,000 attended), and so many veterans made the journey. Their numbers grow thinner every year. Of course, there’s a new controversy about our treatment and care of veterans (and not just those from World War II), a significant change from the high praise the VA earned in 2004.
I’ve also come to realize how young I was then, how silly I was: what an opportunity to speak to these men and women, but I was too shy and timid to approach them, or ask them for their stories and their names. I’m reminded of the wasted opportunities I had when my grandpas were still alive, of all the times I should have asked them to tell me about their lives.
I’ve had a number of veterans in my life: grandfathers, uncles, aunts, cousins and friends. I’ve been grateful for them all. And looking back, I’m grateful I was there for that dedication — to see so many heroes gathered in one place, and help celebrate their sacrifices for freedom and country.