I have had a burning desire in my heart to do this wall for almost 2 years now. I just had to do it and I will explain the reasons why I had to do it in another blog. To be candid I had no idea what to expect. None…zero. People asked me where I would do it and I would answer, ‘I don’t know.’ They would ask when and I would say, ‘I don’t know.’ When asked what I thought the reaction of people would be, I would say, ‘I don’t know.’ I had no idea what to expect but I would always reply, ‘If I do this on a wall in a field somewhere and no one sees it but me and no one cares but me at least I will know it was done and each person is not forgotten.’ Of course this is not what occurred and I was overwhelmed by the response.
After the wall was complete and I stood looking at it, I really took a few lessons away from this process:
The first was the scope of the sacrifice. When you look at it, it is 50 feet long and 7 feet high. 7,000 words written on a black wall with a white marker. It is breath taking really to see the scope of the sacrifice. Each name on this wall had a mom, dad and friends. Many had a wife, husband, children, brothers and sisters. They were all loved my someone. When you look at the 2,200 names the sheer scope of the sacrifice is truly breath taking, emotional and mind boggling.
The second lesson I took from it was that people care. People care if our heroes are honored. The families care because they know someone took the time to say, ‘You are not forgotten’ but the general population who has no one on this wall they also care. Many who didn’t know a single name on the wall have stood and watched me write for hours.
My next lesson was that we are all mortal. This life is very temporary very everyone. The names on this wall are no longer with us and the more time I spent with them and their name the more clear the reality that we are all just passing through became so real to me. My mortality was right before me every day. When I was deployed to Afghanistan my life was no doubt in more danger than it was sitting in my office memorizing the names but the reality of my mortality didn’t necessarily hit me square between the eyes as it did during this process. This reality became so clear to me that one of my largest fears the entire month of Feb 2013 was that I would die before I was able to write the names out. I genuinely feared dieing before I could write out the names.
Finally, I think the last lesson I took away from this last year was the capability of the human mind. I had memorized 2,200 people and 3 facts about each person (rank, 1st name and last name). That is 7,000 words. Sure it took me 10 months but wow. What a testament to the human brain.
This year has changed my life forever and I will never forget the lessons that changed me forever.