Tears, Memories and Prayers

by Mike Hemming
 
 

I passed by the Flasher Memorial on the way to the Sub Vets clubhouse without stopping, because it was raining. Besides, tomorrow the sun will be out and I'll stop then. Later, on the way home, its still raining at 11 O'clock at night... A typical spring rain with a cold wind off the Thames River. But now I must stop. At first, I tell myself I will stay in the car. But it doesn't work... I must get out. Why, I am not sure. I have been here before, years ago. Is there something new I'm looking for?

As I walk around it in a misty rain, my shadows are cast upon the gray painted bridge by the strange blue green lights. A lonely ghost looking for others? I walk to and read each stone with the lost boats on them. Stopping at the only one that has a connection with me personally. The USS Grenadier... Two men from my hometown, served on her. One was transferred before her last patrol and one who was captured by the Japanese after she went down. He survived the unmitigated hell of Nippon's finest brutality and returned to his family.

Walking on, head down, I finish reading the 52 names of those lost boats still not knowing why I'm here at this hour. Then looking up, I see it. I know instantly what it is. Dark and silent, it's a list of the 3,500 men carved into black granite. In the misty rain, I walk to it. Standing there in front of it, the only sound is the snapping of the flag in the wind off the river. I knew none of these men and because of the way the light falls I can't really read the names. After a bit, I step forward and touch the cold granite, the rain running down the stone feels like tears... Tears weeping from each name.

Tears returned after having been spilled by loved ones all across this land in 3,500 homes. Tears returned to America from the names of men that gave her all they had. Those men wept their own tears when they realized that they would not return. Tears shed by men as a shipmate slowly sank into the cold sea unable to swim to a life raft. As others watched a friend die slowly starved and brutalized in a prison camp.

Tears of happiness when a father, son or brother came home from patrol once again. Tears of joy shed on front lawns when the few that did return freed from those camps.

The mists of the night increase until my own tears fall to this hallowed ground. Wiping some away with my free hand, I look at the hand wet now with tears and rain. Leaning forward, I place it on the stone to mix mine with all those tears. I know now, it's all we can give these men. Tears, prayers and to remember what they did.

We must, for we will be the less for it if we don't.

 

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