This Memorial Day weekend I went to my first military ceremony since I became a civilian.
It’s been over two years. I was honestly quite nervous.
I didn’t know exactly what to expect.
I’m not sure you can really call it a military ceremony, as not a single person was in uniform, and it was quite informal considering what I’ve been used to, but I will call it that, as it was every bit as military as a Ramp ceremony. It was the opening ceremony for the Vietnam Veterans Moving Wall, a 1/2 sized replica of the heart wrenching memorial in DC.
Over 58,000 names.
It hurt to look over those names.
Before the ceremony began, I honestly only made it down 3 rows.
Not 3 panels.
Just 3 rows of names before I needed to walk away. 3 rows of teenagers. I walked across the field and sat on a patch of small rocks while I waited for the ceremony to begin, tears falling freely.
I held the free coffee I got from Sarah J’s for being a combat vet tightly in my hands and it held me like a caffeinated anchor to the present, a reminder that I’m a civilian.
No longer not able to have a drink at a ceremony.
No longer not able to wear what I want, whenever I want.
No longer not able to dye my hair nor wear jewelry.
No longer not able to have my DAMN hands in my pockets.
(That in itself was enough to make me want to get out of the army by the end of it all).
I smiled slightly.
Then irrational fear.
What if they do a Last Roll Call Ceremony for Alaskans?
My most feared moment of any memorial ceremony…Last Roll Call, the three volleys, and Taps.
It sent chills down the nape of my neck just thinking about it.
I gripped my coffee.
Civilian. Peace. Blue Hair. Love. Bracelets. Freedom.
I remained calm.
The ceremony began and ended without a hitch.
I cried big, fat, silent tears.
Then imagine it without any support upon returning stateside.
No Last Roll Call.
I was spared.
Unlike the 58,000+ names that looked back at me across the field.
Gone but never forgotten.