Tuesday, April 03, 2007

family and family...

My godmother came out to West Point today. This is the second time that someone from my family has been able to visit me. The second time was my mother on ring weekend. It was a good time for her to visit--the weather was nice, the tour group was good and the annual cemetery tour for the sophomore class was today also.

The cemetery tour is always moving. They have cadets and officers who knew some of the people who are buried there talk about them, unless they are historical graves, then it is history professors. Last year, there was a presentation at the site of CPT Eric Paliwona's grave. Two of his classmates, both officers who were married, introduced us and began simply with, "We're here to introduce you to our friend, Eric." They told stories of him as a cadet, as an officer, and in combat. It was incredibly moving.

Today, there was a Lieutenant Colonel whose father had died after Vietnam. He told us stories of his father's cadet career, and his army career. Around him were his children and two cadets. He went on to tell his fathers career and ultimately, death, and pointed to the cadet on his right--his cousin, his father's nephew, and on the left, a cadet who won an award in his father's name. He then said that he was only five when his father died. He told the cadets to look around them, and explained that the only reason he knows what he does about his father is because his father's classmates took it upon themselves to find him and tell him the stories. That they, his classmates, were his family too, and had made him their own son.

Another site was for a Lieutenant Colonel who had died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. His wife presented. This is the second time I'd heard her talk and seen her photos. Afterwards, I saluted and thanked her, explaining that her openness meant a lot to us, as cadets, and to the school. I was visibly choked up I think. She teared up and told me it meant a lot to her to present, and that when someone dies, you feel a need to ensure their memory is kept alive. By sharing his experience with the current cadets, she feels she can do that.

The desire to share something to make it real is something I didn't realize until tonight. I have been in the West Point system for five years now, called myself a cadet and worn the uniform for four. Until I saw my mother the first time when I was in uniform, and walked the halls with her...it didn't feel real to me. Until I shared it with her, it didn't mean as much.

Likewise, today...when I was finally able to introduce my Godmother to my friends, and show her what it is I've been dedicating myself to for so long, it wasn't real. But, tonight, she was able to see not just my friends, or my classes, or the buildings, but she was able to really experience what "the long grey line" is. She went on the cemetery tour with us and, I think, has an understanding of what this place means more than any other person I know who is not a cadet. And I can't think of anyone I'd want to share that with more.


Post a Comment

<< Home