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Brent Budowsky

Brent Budowsky

Posted: November 12, 2006 04:32 PM

Vietnam Memorial, Christmas Eve: Love Letters to America


One of my personal traditions in Washington is to visit the Vietnam Memorial near midnight on Christmas Eve.

If I am in a serious relationship with a woman often she will come with me, as we hold hands on a dark night and pay tribute to heroes. If I am with a family for Christmas dinner, they will sometimes come too, and everyone who has done this with me, experienced a moving and memorable experience.

I would encourage all who read these words, to visit the Memorial during the Holidays if you can get to town, even for a day.

From Thanksgiving through Christmas there are written tributes and holiday cards resting below the names on the Wall. There are large boxes full of letters and notes from those who lost the ones they love, and those who did not know any of those heroes who just want to send their love and prayers.

It is an extraordinary experience, reading those letters, something I hope every one of you will someday share. It is an extraordinary feeling, the letters, the cards, the tributes, the prayers are written as though the names on the Wall remain alive, or the greetings and tributes will be read somewhere in heaven.

I believe they will be.

Washington near midnight on December 24 is cold, dark and often windy. But from one end of the Wall to the other, the lights flicker a little brighter, and for a few minutes, the wind brings a warmer breeze.

Every Christmas Eve at the Memorial, there are dozens of us who come to this same place, for this same reason, and often we will shake hands, hug and talk in a quiet way about our country.

The cards, letters, prayers, greetings, tributes that grace the Wall during those Holiday days are intensively personal, but they are also love letters to America.

I began seriously writing on the internet in June with a piece in the Washington Note titled "For Whom The Bell Tolls". Since then, I have received countless private responses from people from every walk of life, with every political viewpoint.

The common denominator of so many of them, is that they were love letters to America.

The notes from active duty troops in Iraq saying how good it is, to know there are people back home fighting to get them what they need, whether we support the policy or not.

The letter from the liberal Mom in Texas who was offended by the Disney movie on 9-11, and marched through her house with her little daughter throwing away every Disney toy in protest.

The military mom who wrote me shortly before the election, who had sent my God Bless The Troops Who Serve post to her son in Iraq.

The countless men and women who wrote me about how America must never surrender our Bill of Rights, and why America must never commit torture by any name.

The protests, prayers and pleas that came in to fight for honest elections without fraud or intimidation.

All of these expressions, in so very different ways, share a very common sentiment: they are all love letters to America. They are all expressions of love of country, how fortunate we are, to live in this land. From proud support of our troops to the strongest dissents from our government policies, they all flow from a true wellspring of American patriotism.

From left, right and center: they all write their love letters to America. Where our leaders are right, they speak with pride. Where our leaders are wrong, they speak with patriotism and passion, to set things right and keep America the great best hope on earth, forever.

Many of us, have our own formative experience in life. Mine was being in Warsaw, Poland, in 1981 during the Cold War. Suffice it to say, I was meeting with true freedom fighters, at the very moment that the Soviet communist leaders were in Warsaw for the inauguration of the communist dictator General Jaruzelski and the city was crawling with Soviet Generals and KGB planning in their meetings to put Lech Walesa and others in jail.

I will never in my life, forget the exact minute, flying home, when the pilot said: "We have now entered West German airspace." My instant thought was for myself: back home in the free world, safe again. Almost immediately I then thought of the Poles I had left behind, risking their lives, surrounded by dictatorship and danger.

Only months later, the communists declared martial law.

But in a decade, the last stone was torn down from Berlin Wall.

Before, after, then, now, earlier, later and forever there are people all around the world writing their own love letters, in their own ways, to America. There are those who may despise the American policy of the day, but the idea of America, the history of America, the freedom of America, is a living beacon to so many even in their darkest days of oppression.

Love letters to America come in many words and many languages. When our country does go wrong, many of those who oppose our policies so strongly, privately pray that we set things right.

At the Vietnam Memorial this Veterans Day there were moving speeches by great leaders such as General Barry McCaffrey, decorated hero and military voice, and Captain Frederick Hauck, great retired Naval Officer and former astronaut.

The most moving speech, however, was by the youngest person on the stage, CM2 Elizabeth Lopez, who had served in Iraq and returned home to use her gifts to help other returning troops. Surrounded by Generals, Admirals and the Secretary of the Air Force she received the standing ovation of the day when she told how she felt, when her tour of duty ended, and she first heard the words: "Welcome Home."

The election is over, America has entered a new period in our history, and hopefully we can regain the spirit where we all write love letters to America, and we all read with respect, the love letters to America written by others.

For those who want to make a difference and help our troops, our veterans and their families please go to purpleheart.org or one of the many great groups doing such good work.

For those anywhere near Washington during this coming Holiday Season, pay a visit to the Wall and read some of those extraordinary and moving letters of patriotism and love, and maybe even write one yourself, and leave it in the box resting near the Wall. Something tells me, it will make it to the right place.

If you happen to be there during the hour when December 24 becomes December 25, look for me, we will shake hands and share the moment together.