The people I have met along the way because of this wall was completely unexpected by me. I honestly had no idea what to expect. I told many that if it was just me in a field all alone I would do it and was overwhelmed by the response.
Last week I was invited to have dinner with a group of former and current Special Operations guys (SEALs, Rangers, etc). It was an incredible dinner. I sat beside a gentlemen named Tim who was a former F18 pilot. When someone else at the table mentioned my wall he interrupted and said, ‘Wait…were you the guy doing this on Fox News last month?’ I replied I was.
This man began to get very emotional. He said, ‘I was on the tread mill that morning watching the news and I saw you writing the names. It impacted me so much I had to turn the tv off.’ He went on to say that only once or twice a year will something on the news make him think and remember it. He turned off the tv and began to wonder if he could remember the names of his fallen friends.
Then sitting beside me he asked if he could tell me the story of one of his fallen friends. I of course asked him to. He said, ‘I was getting on a bus for the deployment and saying good bye to my wife and kids. When I got on the bus I began talking to a man and the man said, ‘That is my wife and kids there waving to me’ and Tim replied he had his wife and kids waving to him as well. They bonded over that experience as they each waved goodbye to their kids.
Tim then told me the man’s name was Mario Carazo. I replied, ‘He was a Lt Col and Major James Weiss was with him.’ Tim shook his head that I was correct and then he began to break down. Tim explained to me that Mario and James had their helicopter shot down my RPG fire in a coordinated attack. He told me Mario’s call sign was ‘Sugar Bear’ for his Teddy Bear looks and I will incorporate that into my memory images.
I explained to Tim the way I memorize is that I visualize each of the 2,200 hero’s on a location in my brain that I remember. For Mario and James I have them in a home in Wilmington, North Carolina. Mario I visualize on a painting that says, ‘Always kiss me before bedtime’ and James is in the Kitchen near the refrigerator. When I write out the names I just mentally walk around that home (and other homes)
I promised Tim that I would always remember his friends and do my part to keep their memory alive so they truly are not forgotten.
I can’t explain to you what it means to me to be able to do this and how precious of an honor it is.
These men represent the best our country has to offer. I am so grateful we have men like this and my heart breaks so much for their children and wives.