Just outside the small town of Romeo, Colorado, on Highway 285, there’s a memorial. As things go, it’s a simple affair. Its metal tablets are framed by a wall made from local stones. There’s nothing grand about it like the Iwo Jima Monument, nor heart wrenching like the ‘Nam Wall.
It’s just a simple monument.
Thousand of people drive past it every day and don’t give it a second glance. Yet, it’s part of our history in the Valley and covers the First and Second World Wars. The wall reflects something that seems odd at times. There is no segregation on it. I know from experience that combat is the great equalizer. On the battlefield it doesn’t matter if you’re an Anglo, Hispanic, Negro, Asian, Native American, or like yours truly, a Heinz 57. It doesn’t matter if you were a Catholic, a Mormon, Baptist, Buddhist, Atheist, or whatever. It also doesn’t matter if you’re straight, gay, or someplace in between. Republican, Democrat, or what.
On the battlefield what makes everyone equal is someone is trying their best to kills us. Your job is come home alive, and that means putting the differences aside. I’m reminded of a scene in the movie 84C MoPic, where someone asks one of the characters what he thought about being led by a black man. The character being asked the question was from the deep south, and the question irritated him. He responded by telling the guy that it was the wrong question. He said, “Why don’t you ask if I love him like a brother, because I do,” and that he would die for him, and the man the question was asked would he do the same for him. Then he told the interviewer to turn off the camera.
In combat, there is no race, political parties, or other divisions. As I said, the battlefield is the great equalizer.
The wall reflects that idea. Smith is right next to Martinez who’s right next to Kenoshi. There’s no “C” to denote Catholic. No “LDS” to reflect Latter Day Saints, or “B” for Baptist or Buddhist. There’s no “R” for Republican or “D” for Democrat.
Nor is it reflected who came back or who didn’t.
What is reflected is the names of men who left their plows and families to go a fight for their country. It’s mute testimony to heartbreak when leaving friends and family. It tells the story of long nights in foxholes, or pain felt from being wounded. It’s about watching men you’ve come to love like a brother die thousands of miles from home. It’s a testament to freezing at twenty three thousand feet and dropping bombs on cities with names you probably pronounced wrong.
Most of the men on that wall are gone now. In most cases they’re nothing more now than a picture fading away in a box someplace.
It’s up to us, the living, to make sure they don’t fade away completely.