When I was a child, the Vietnam War was in full swing. I grew up into my teen years without feeling really connected to the military or what was going on with wars and international conflict.
When I was older, I learned my mother's dad served in World War I as a private in the Marines. I had a cousin who was in the military as well. Around 2009, I became involved in Ancestry.com and discovered my family's service in the military dated back to 1895, with my great-grandfather's service in the Army at Camp Poland in Knoxville, Tennessee. The Spanish American War began in 1898 and I can find little when I research the place and time mentioned. Even without the details of what he was likely doing there, I am proud to know my ancestor felt the desire and duty to serve. I found a photo of him in his uniform at the camp, standing in front of a tree with part of a camp banner showing over his shoulder. My grandmother told me very little about him except that he raised her alone, so to find a photograph was amazing.
Monday was Memorial Day. There was a service at the Veteran's Memorial Plaza in downtown Milton. Seeing the variety of people at the plaza—some currently serving, others honoring their lost friends and family—was touching and humbling.
One of our reporters was shooting photos and he brought back a photo that I can't forget. It is a young man, a teenager, sitting alone on a bench with his head tipped down, looking quite sad.
I don't want to run his photo and embarrass him, but I wish I could comfort him or find out if he would like to share his story. Sometimes it is very healing to share pain we try to carry alone.
He was wearing a grey short-sleeved Aeropostale t-shirt with a dark blue 87 sown onto the sleeve and the word "Aeropostale" vertically down the right front in the same blue, sewn onto the shirt. He has dark brown hair and a light moustache. If you recognize yourself here, or if you know who this young man is...I think he could use a hug. If he wants to talk to us and talk about his story, we would like to help him tell it.
I am touched that he was drawn to the service at the Riverwalk, to be near others sharing the same memories or pain.
Obviously, since 9/11, international news hits closer to home than ever for most Americans. This young man is a prime example. Most everyone has someone overseas or knows someone who is serving in Afghanistan or other areas. We have lost local men to the wars. We are surrounded here by the military with four prominent bases in the tri-county area.
These facts make Memorial Day more personal than ever.
On behalf of the Press Gazette, we would like to say thank you to our citizens who gave their lives to keep America strong and free.
And to their families and friends who live with their loss every day.