Tuesday, April 18, 2006


As the shadow of the Washington monument grew longer, I could feel my energy waning. It had been a long day for each of us and it was obvious that Mike was also worn out. Ed would soon be feeling the aftereffects of the acid and would need a safer environment in which to return to us.

It seemed a good opportunity to start the trip home and I received little argument as I led us back to the Watergate Apartments and our car. It took nearly one and a half hours to reach Interstate 95 North proper. As anyone who traveled through the nation`s capital in those days quickly understood, the small signs that mapped the meandering route that the still uncompleted interstate traveled through Washington were often missing or hard to see. It seemed that we were like trailblazers or worker bees; each car of a large caravan moving north, taking turns getting lost, then settling back in the pack.

I felt relief as we approached the interstate; it was at least another four hour drive back to Philadelphia and I wasn`t sure if I would have any company for the trip. Mike had settled into a deep sleep in the back seat and Ed was lost in his thoughts, his eyes closed, breathing deeply. I pulled into the first reststop, asked Mike and Ed if they needed to use the bathroom, then entered alone. After using the facilities I entered the small restaurant and ordered three large coffees to go.

As I waited in line to pay I could see the haggardness in the waitresses` faces. They had probably been overwhelmed now for hours feeding an unlikely band of long hairs, both men and women, dressed in jeans, tiedied shirts, remnants of military uniform. And they all seemed to know each other, no hassles, just smiles, knowing looks. I was approached by an older couple who were standing just behind me in line.

“Pardon me, but were you at the demonstration today?” the man asked.

I smiled, nodded, “Yes sir, I was”.

“Are you a veteran?”

“No, I`m a National Guardsman, but my best friend is with me in the car. He served two tours in Vietnam.”

The man`s wife seemed to urge him on. “My eldest son died in Vietnam. He was there three weeks. Never left his base camp. An incoming mortar shell killed six of them.”

I looked at him, unsure of what to say, how to respond. I could see the mounting tears in his wife`s eyes. “I`m very sorry sir.”

His wife neared and took my hand. “Please tell your friend that we are proud of what you are doing. My son`s legacy lies with all of you. Something has to be done to stop all this killing.” Her husband spoke, as he must have done so many times, trying to understand the loss of his son. “Bob was drafted as soon as he completed college. University of Maryland, Philosophy major. He was going to go to graduate school, extend his deferment, but we ran out of money. He told me not to worry, that he would complete school after the Army. Now he`s gone.”

I placed my hand on his shoulder, “I`m so sorry for your loss, sir. And I hope you can understand that we have no disrespect for anyone who`s served. It`s just that we don`t want to see more death, more lives devastated.”

The man forced a little smile and took the check out of my hand. “This one`s on me son. Please tell your friend to hang in there.”

His wife drew my face down and kissed me. “With all of your help, maybe this war will end before my Jimmy is old enough to enlist. He doesn`t understand the fruitlessness of this war. He wants to go over there and kill those people who took his brother`s life.”

“Well, Ma`am, we`ll continue to do everything we can. And maybe you could take him to talk to some vets in the group that my friend has joined, the Vietnam Veterans Against The War. I think they can help Jimmy understand.” The couple thanked me and paid my check and I left the reststop, silently saying a little prayer for both their sons.