Thirteen letters on a wall, engraved in granite forever on panel 7W Line 18. A man’s name to serve as an honor and remembrance. It is Memorial day is the United States. It is the day when we stop and remember those Military Men and Women who died while in service to our country.
I have found over the years that I lose touch with the specific meaning and impact of Memorial day on my life at times. As a former Airman, I hold a special place in my heart and life for military men and women. Yet, I have at times lost sight of the individuals. Akin to seeing the sand on the beach as a sum of all the grains combined, we don’t always see the individual grain of sand.
I want my daughters to understand that it is more than a day to open the summer, or cook hot dogs. I want them to understand the meaning of the day. I asked them to select a name and do a rubbing from the Wall. I chose one as well, Steven L. Coffey.
Nineteen years old from Yuma Arizona, SP4 Steven Lynn Coffey served in the United States Army in Quang Duc Vietnam. Originally from Mount Pleasant, Mi, he enlisted on May 1st, 1969. His tour in Vietnam began on January 22, 1970. He died in August 28th, 1970. He was in country seven months and five days. He died in the barracks from an accidental discharge of another man’s rifle. He served as a heavy equipment driver. He lies at rest in Los Angeles National Cemetery. He was someone’s son, and friend, and classmate.
I found information on a website named Virtual Vietnam Veterans Wall of Faces. The following pictures of Steven are from Rodney Skinner.
It would be easy to walk down the long memorial wall and let your glaze drift over from all the names. 58,272 names in all, are engraved on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The same number of names are engraved on The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall. It might be easy to have the names all blend together.
Behind each of the names is a story. There is a life lost to protect our freedoms. These names add to those of World War I and II, Korea, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, and so many other wars and conflicts. Total deaths in all wars amount to 658,008.
Researching someone makes them real and a human being. Steven is no longer a name on a wall, but a young man who stood up and signed that blank check to protect our country. The cost was his life. The least we can do is remember him. This is what Memorial Day is all about. Remembering the fallen.