Sunday, November 11, 2012

On Veterans Day, I might have shed a tear . . .

You may have seen the post-campaign speech by Obama to his campaign workers in which he shed a couple of tears while talking to the younger workers, addressing their hard work, loyalty, and commitment.  This post is not a political statement because presumably the tears shed will apply to most campaigns at this and down-ballot levels.

The passion and beliefs on which so many campaigns are founded can yield huge emotional results, whether in victory or defeat.  And it has led me to speak here of a number of events and observations that I have been mulling over for the past several weeks, events that have caused me to have my own "moments."  Emotion is personal to me, whether from success, joy, or sorrow.

Some time ago I watched a report on Paul Newman's "Hole in the Wall" Camp, founded for children with cancer and serious blood diseases.  Camp Counselors were creating an environment that few campers may have believed was within their reach until they were sitting in a circle, smiling and singing.  And by the end of the televised report, I felt a tear in the corner of my eye.

Wisconsin Lions have opened a similar camp in Rosholt, WI, for kids who didn't think they could go to camp because of their blindness.  Since the founding, the camp has expanded to kids with diabetes, and cognitive or physical disabilities.  Now many of the campers have themselves become counselors, bringing their experience full circle.

A DVD made available by the camp shows kids slogging through a mud pit, canoeing, walking a rope bridge, and enjoying all the activities that "normal" kids do at their own camps, activities they thought beyond their reach.  I've watched the video, during which a tear comes to the corner of my eyes.

Those examples perhaps illustrate a point. Most of the emotion-impact scenes I have witnessed seem to be tied to young people succeeding, perhaps beyond odds, or just because they put heart and soul into the effort and reap a reward.  Perhaps it's the opposite, where all the hard work and effort do NOT lead to success, but either way, it's the young people and their commitments that count.

As I have aged I have had more emotional reflection of America's finest going off to war, often never coming home.  When "Platoon" came out several years ago I can recall leaving the theater when the movie ended, with a very quiet crowd, few people including myself making eye contact with anyone, and indeed there were several cases of sniffling going on.

A few months ago I added "Platoon" to my Netflix Instant Queue, but have yet to watch it.  You know why.

So you can imagine that during the entire Project McNamara process late last spring my heart was full and my eyes were often wet.  On the day of the first meeting of the principals of the group we were tied by emotion, yet at this moment the engagement was not particularly deep.  Still, many tears were shed, and Marv Everhart said in a later email, "I had tears in my eyes all day."

There were two moments from Project McNamara that fully engulfed me, and both happened in Florida, where we drove for vacation immediately following that first event.  I took with me several photos gathered from Marv and others so I could scan them to include in later posts, but the primary need was to find the photo suitable for posting on the two websites, and

Once we arrived in Florida I spent a little time digging for information about Ray Calhoun, the fellow who lay on his back with Donald McNamara singing to the top of their voices.  And I found him.  We had gone back and forth without connecting until the day I went to a Walgreen's to scan all my photos.  As I was leaving the store, my phone rang, and it was Ray Calhoun.  I asked if he could confirm that he was the fellow who lay on his back singing "Up Up and Away" with Donald, and he did.

From that point on the conversation was difficult for me, as I did my best to listen and learn.  It was just a normal Project McNamara extraordinary moment of coincidence that as I finished scanning Donald's photos his fellow Marine Ray would call me. And I had more than one tear in my eye.

Back at our apartment I later made a choice on photos, uploaded them to the websites, and got a notice at completion that I would be notified when they were approved.  That took a few days, and when I checked my email several days later, one email from the Virtual Wall was a notice of approval, including a link to click to take me to his page.

When I clicked the link, the full-screen photo of Donald McNamara leaped out at me.  That was a difficult moment.  I expected to see the photo, but not the surreal full-screen version that was in front of me and I was lifted to a new peak.

I was proud to have played a part in providing recognition for this lost Marine, honored to have met his son along the way, but mostly grateful that the online photo makes it more difficult that he would ever be forgotten.  So yes, I might have shed a tear.

Today is Veteran's Day, and on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, we honor all veterans, with a special salute to my unknown friend, Corporal Donald Woodward McNamara, United States Marine Corp.

1 comment:

  1. Great post Lee. Totally enjoyed TV today and Obama's speech to the veterans.

    Sorry I missed you on Face Time. Just got home last night.


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