My First

By R. Kevin Eide

I am 34 years old and spent four years in the US Army with my basic training done at Ft. Dix -- that was when I went to The Wall. This is just a short essay that I wrote about my experience. I originally wrote the essay for a college class on the topic of "your most memorable 'first'." This was and is my most memorable first .

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It was a bright, sunny morning when Tex, Randy, and I walked down the long park in front of the Lincoln Memorial. There were children running and playing, their grins and giggles echoed off the tall trees that lined the edge of the park. Smiles were evident on everyone's faces.

The steady stream of people all seemed traveling toward the western side of the park rather than the eastern side. Abe's statue was there with his granite smile showing his pleasure at having the thousands of people who were in the park to enjoy the unseasonably warm weather.

Tex asked if Randy and I wanted to go and find somewhere to drink a beer. We both readily agreed to the idea, considered which direction to go, and finally agreed to go to the heavily crowded street on the western edge of the park.

As we walked that way, those ahead of us seemed to be getting shorter. It wasn't until we reached the beginning of the down sloping crevice that we realized where the three of us were headed.

The brownish-black granite slates seemed unimpressive. They were short and appeared to have chips in them; but yet, they seemed to be communicating with those around them. The children became quiet, staying close to their stoic parents. Not a word was being spoken by anyone. Slowly the granite blocks became larger, until they were towering overhead.

Instead of chips in the granite, names were engraved in the stone. But it wasn't just stone, it wasn't just granite, names were engraved in the stone. But it wasn't just stone, it wasn't just granite; it was a memorial to martyrs, kids mainly, who were frightened and lonely. They were sent someplace where they didn't understand who their enemy was. Standing there, you could feel the pain. See the tears. Smell the blood and death that happened around them.

Before I realized it, the three of us were at the top of the embankment overlooking the depression in the park. The children were laughing, the adults speaking quietly to each other, and Tex, Randy, and I slowly turned to look again into the depression, not feeling quite as proud in our cleaned and pressed military dress uniforms. I reached up to wipe away the lone tear that was slowly creeping its way down my cheek, knowing the three of us would never feel the same again.

We never did go get a beer, instead we went and thanked those courageous soldiers who had served before us, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Copyright © By R. Kevin Eide 1996, All RIghts Reserved