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By: Steve Fleming, SSGT(former)
Master Tour Rider 8140

United State Air Force 1969-73 Air National Guard 1973-77
Chapter Educator, Texas Chapter N2

More than Names on a Wall

On a recent visit to the Viet -Nam Memorial in Washington, DC, we found this note at the wall from a man remembering a fallen comrade. I could only imagine the anguish that moved Matt to write this note.

As I stood there at the wall, I was overcome with a flood of emotions while remembering the young men who were my classmates, teammates in Little League, family and friends that had given their all. I thought of the hopes and dreams they would never see come true. I thought of the loss of one of our nation's greatest asset, a large portion of the next generation. "More than Just a Name on the Wall" kept running through my mind. I was so moved that I knew I would never be able to put it all into words. This is but a pitiful attempt to do so. It is so many different things to so many different people. The depths of human emotions are a very hard thing to ponder due to the complexities involved. Everyone visiting the Wall has personal reasons for going there and will experience it in a different way. This was my second visit and it was far more difficult than the first. New depths of sorrow and a feeling of great loss bubbled up from deep inside me. Maybe it is just maturity but I see things so much differently now. To add to those feelings, my wife found her uncle's name on this visit.

More than 58,000 Americans put their futures, their dreams, their hopes and aspirations on hold to do their duty when our country called them into service. These heroes did not run off to Canada despite the great unpopularity of the war; they gave their all. I remember the war protesters, Hanoi Jane and the pelting with rotten fruit and vegetables along with the hurled insults and verbal abuse that our troops were welcomed home with if they managed to survive their tour of duty.

I met a lady at the entrance to the Wall from Stapleton, Nebraska. Her name is Monica Harvey and she approached me to ask if I was a veteran. When I told her yes, she asked if she could give me a hug and handed me a small heart pin with a Band-Aid in it. She explained to me that it was a small token of appreciation from a grateful nation for my service to our country and she added that it was long past due that someone say "thank you" and welcome home big brother from little Sis. I broke down like a three dollar watch remembering my family and friends and that dark time in our country's history. I could not speak. She was there the whole time we were at the Wall and I saw her approaching men in my age group asking them the same thing and giving them pins. After we had made our walk along the Wall and visited the beautiful bronze statues, we were heading back to the Lincoln Memorial to catch our tour bus; I went back to her to tell her thank you. She hugged me again and then sang me a song which I have never heard before. It was, as you might guess, Welcome Home Big Brother from Little Sis. Just when I thought I had the watch put back together, she shattered it again and all I could manage to say was thank you, you're an angel.

The unsung heroes of our country have always risen for the cause of freedom. From Bunker Hill to Yorktown; Goliad to San Jacinto; Normandy to Berlin; Pusan to Inchon; Saigon to Hue; Kuwait to Baghdad; Qandahar to Kabul; Where ever oppression and tyranny raise their heads, an American soldier is just as likely to be found defending those who cannot defend themselves. When they call for help, we come to their aid. Sometimes we ask ourselves why, but the truth is that it is just the right thing to do. So we do it.

Willie Nelson sings a song that says his heroes have always been cowboys. My heroes have always been the American fighting man. Men of our Texas Chapter N2 like Paul Rich, Jim Flournoy, JR Ragley, Jim "Hollywood" Fleming, Jerry Barnett, Steve Seligman, Mark Smith and so many others I have known through the years, who put aside for a season some personal aspirations to don a uniform in service to our country. But it doesn't stop there; it also goes to the men and women who serve here at home, our police and firemen. One of the things I admire about the Gold Wing Road Riders Association, something that makes me glad to be a Member, is that I see these values reflected at gatherings and rallies. The Pledge of Allegiance and the recognition of these heroes are things that we should never forget. The nation that forgets those who give service in defense of that nation is a nation that will soon perish.

Even with all of our troubles, I'm glad to be an American and proud to have served.

Read More Featured Stories From March 2012 Wingin' It.