Before I was born, my Dad Louie and his little brother Bernie went off to Vietnam to fight in the war. It is a time period that I don’t know much about. As we were in D.C. families came from all over to honor fallen soldiers and family members. We got to be one of those families. A storm had just passed in D.C. and lightning was still in the area but we walked the path to the soldier directory. A thick telephone like book told the story. Pages of names and locations of soldiers are flipped through by loved ones searching for closure, identity and an opportunity to honor.
As we made our way to the “wall” emotion took over.
I started thinking about how our current soldiers are protecting our freedom and the future for our children. I was taken back to what life may have been like for my Mom and Dad and his family in Indiana at the time the brothers were sent to war. The tears came for many reasons and some I can’t explain well enough to make sense. What I do know is that the war became a real event in history for me that stormy afternoon.
I mostly felt deep sadness for my Father and the loss and trauma he must have experienced when he lost his little brother. I tried explaining that to my boys. “Its like you guys going off to fight in a war and one of you doesn’t come home.” Not only would you suffer from the post war trauma but also you would be missing your brother the rest of your life.
Tears intensified as I saw the reflection of my family in the names on the wall and appreciated more than ever the service my Dad gave to our country and those in Vietnam. I wouldn’t be here if Louis Herman Holzknecht’s name was up there. I am thankful that he came home but sorry for the death of such a young brother. I’ve heard many stories about Uncle Bernie the young, wild, crazy, fearless and funny brother. A list of questions formed in my heart for my Dad that I hope to get the chance to ask him.
Bernie’s name was too high to reach at the top of the wall, so I climbed on Kris’ shoulders with paper and crayon in hand in attempt to trace the inscription. After our pictures were taken and talks about war and sacrifice were had, I made a call to my Dad.
In perfect Lou fashion he teared up on the phone in Alaska and spoke in a somber, reverent, sweet tone and then encouraged me not to be upset and enjoy my time with my family. I told him how powerful of a scene it was to see your last name on a sea of soldiers. This was by far the most powerful moment for me. Thank you Louie and Bernie Holzknecht