By Dorothy Wilhelm
I can see them from a long way off – running.
Waves of blue bobbing past my window
Too far away for me to read the names imprinted
On their shirts
But I know the names are there.
“Run to Remember,” they say.
Wives, mothers, sisters, widows, husbands fathers
“I can’t tell you what it means,”
A mother said to me
“Just to know his name is being spoken,
remembered somewhere in the world.”
I cannot run, but I remember
Looking back at a nineteen year old Army bride watching as
A crusty old soldier dismisses her new husband,
“Gawd, it’s a Second Looey. I didn’t think they made them any more,”
Remembering 1956, a twenty year old mother, weeping as her husband leaves for
Korea, the same day their two year old son falls at Grammy’s house
And needs emergency surgery.
She’s not surprised.
All military wives knows catastrophe happens when the
Spouse is overseas.
They’re still in Korea aren’t they?
Remembering another year – Vietnam this time.
This mother wraps their son
In his father’s field jacket, and says
“This is how your Daddy will hold you – when he comes home.”
The blue shirted runners continue, pushing placid babies in wildly bumping strollers
Those kids will never settle for a sedate walk again.
Remembering sons who grew up and entered the service. Parents were proud.
Pictures came by email from the deck of a Navy Carrier or Coast Guard Ice Breaker
Windows on a different world.
Smiled proudly when their wives moved forward to be the strong thread
that held their family together.
The soldier’s family came home on an August day when
the sons in summer dress white uniforms stood with their hands on mothers shoulders, enduring the 21 gun salute.
Fiercely proud of his service, “We’ll just keep marching,” he’d say,
The soldier wore his white uniform too, for the final deployment.
“I forget about Memorial Day,” a neighbor confides, “You see, we were lucky.
We didn’t lose anyone.”
I look at her curiously. Didn’t you? Didn’t we all lose someone?
The flag bearer runs by, in a hurry to get to the front. It’s a big flag and heavy
But the runner runs. It’s what they do.
Someone else will take the flag soon.
We should all have our turn.
They’ve mostly gone past now. They’ll get where they’re going
Supported and cheered by their blue community.
Suddenly the message seems terribly important.
I cannot run. But I’ll remember.
As long as someone says those dear names,
They cannot be forgotten.
And they belong to all of us.