The approaching Veterans Day holiday causes me to reflect on a bucket-list trip that I took this past August. It wasn’t anything grand and maybe not that adventurous. But it was something that I wanted to do since I was 10-years old: I wanted to see a total eclipse. After months of pondering, accompanied by weeks of internet searches looking for advice and know-how, I settled on a location in Wyoming to see the eclipse. Just so you know, Wyoming is the state with the least number of cloudy days in August.
A “Bucket-list” Trip
I started planning a five-day mini-vacation, taking a couple of days to get in place and a couple more to investigate a part of the country my family hadn’t seen. Realizing there wasn’t any hotel accommodations for part of the trip — think car camping — my wife bailed out of the adventure, leaving my son and myself. In short, experiencing totality is awesome! And I say that word with all of it synonyms. Really, if you ever get the chance, do it..
So, what does that have to do with Veterans Day?
As my son, Henry, and I drove throughout Wyoming and parts of South Dakota, we drove through many, many small towns. Early in our trip, the thing that struck me – and what I am reflecting on today – is that each and every one of these towns had a memorial dedicated to our military veterans. Growing up, I always thought that I’d be in the military. I think it’s fair to say that I didn’t know one could grow up without having been in the military. My Dad was a retired, disabled vet, and my oldest brother and three brothers-in-law served in Vietnam. So I think I may have grown up a little desensitized to the commitment that it takes to serve.
As we started driving through Wyoming, I decided to pull over and visit the town memorials. Surprisingly, my son never questioned it. He became as engaged in the process as I was, and never really asked why. As we visited each site, I’d retell the stories his grandfather told me about listening to the news every night and hearing and seeing Vietnam unfold in our living room via our television. As we stood in front of each memorial, the image in my mind that reoccurred most frequently was that of Walter Cronkite reporting the body count for the day. I must admit that as a kid, these numbers weren’t much more meaningful than the baseball scores for the Baltimore Orioles.
This memory of Cronkite – accompanied by the Ken Burns' PBS Special on Vietnam, that has been airing over the last several weeks – has got me thinking about numbers. The number of veterans memorials in the United States, the numbers that Cronkite reported every night and that there are 58,307 names on the Vietnam Memorial in D.C. Sure, we remember those we lost. We remember a father, a son, a brother, an uncle, a cousin, maybe an aunt or a niece — there are eight women on the wall. But most of the other names on this wall are faceless to us.
The veterans memorials honoring both the living and the dead are points of pride within the communities that we visited this summer. In fact, they are points of pride within every community that has one. My son and I saw a little more than two dozen during that trip. I cannot begin to imagine the total number of veterans memorials in every town and county throughout the United States.
Here’s where you come in, my fellow GovLoop reader. I’ve created a little tool to help in this process. It is a crowd-source Story Map that allows you, the reader, to take a photo of the veterans memorial in your town or county and post it on a map and add a little description: http://go.esri.com/Veterans18
It’s simple enough; upload a photo and add some details about the memorial and its location.
And now, an explanation of the title of this blog post. Early in my career, I learned that, when presenting a problem or issue, “put-a-face-on-it.” To put a face on it is to make something seem more real or easier to understand or make something human.
And that is my goal here today, I want you to help me document this particular point of pride within your community. Show the world your community’s memorial, to both the living and dead veterans. The people who served our country, paying a price that was either small, big or ultimate.
Richard Leadbeater is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.