As we draw closer to the 4th of July, I've got one simple request. As you celebrate this Independence Day, will you take a moment and remember those who served and those who sacrificed? It can be as simple as a brief pause, a silent prayer, a toast or an offer of thanks.
I would like to share with you a unique story of one man's 4th of July and how it gave him a special meaning that he will carry for the rest of his life.
I first heard the name Tim Michael on July 4, 1983 while attending helicopter flight training at Fort Rucker, Alabama with Tim's brother, Mark.
The 4th of July festivities were in full swing for everyone except Mark. Hoping to cheer him up, I went to dinner with Mark that evening. He produced a photograph of his brother, Timothy Shawn Michael (right), sitting in a helicopter in Vietnam. The photo spoke volumes. Young and tired, 10-foot tall, rugged and bulletproof. The kind of pilot everyone at Fort Rucker wanted to become. I wanted to meet Tim and ask him all the questions a young man asks a veteran about war.
Mark told me Tim was killed on the 4th of July 1969 in Vietnam. I didn't need to ask Tim anything about war. I had an indelible answer to the age old question, "What is it like to be in a war?" A young man gets killed, his brother still feels the loss more than a decade later; a photo, distant memories and a name on a wall are all that remain.
The 4th of July hasn't been the same for me since that day. Tim's picture and Mark's anguish for his lost brother have visited me every year. I don't dread the visits. I think about the photographs I sent to my brother, posing in the same way, feeling like I imagine Tim did in 1969. I thank God my brother and I see each other every day at work. But the time we spend together on the 4th of July has a special meaning for me that I'll never tell him about.
Some day I'll visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I'll look for the only name I know on the massive piece of black granite and shed tears for a man I never met.
Stories like this one help us all to remember what a debt we owe to these heroes. That's why we are building the Education Center at The Wall across the street from the Memorial. With your support, this facility will be a place where future generations can discover these stories and honor the values that make this country so great.
Jan C. Scruggs
Founder and President
P.S. Every year that passes since the Vietnam War makes it more challenging to help new generations understand those turbulent, traumatic times. It's also more challenging to keep the memories of fallen heroes alive.
That's why I'm hopeful that you'll give online so that these names will never be forgotten. Thank you for you commitment to VVMF's work that you make possible.