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  • It had been a long while since I’d been to Washington, D.C. The first time I was in the Army, stationed in northern Virginia. The last was several years ago, sent by work on a several week assignment, where I'd had the weekends to myself to explore with more diligence than I had in my early twenties.

    A key element in my agenda this trip was to visit "the Wall". I had been there several times before, always making it at least once every trip. For me each time is different, yet special, and always moving. It is always interesting to me to observe other visitors, who, like many others I had watched before, realized the magnitude of the sacrifice offered as their eyes drink in the names of over 58,000 service members killed or missing in action during the Vietnam conflict. If you’ve never pondered the magnitude before, consider a moderate sized city you might know with a similar population; Springfield, OH – Bristol, CT – Cheyenne, WY – or Daytona Beach, FL - simply vanished.

    Some pass quickly by, as if to check the box on their list of D.C. points of interest they can say they have visited. Many move slowly, as if to digest it. Still others search for the name of a loved one; brother, son, husband, father, or a lost brother in arms - many leaving tokens of their grief or memory behind. These are the ones that touch me the most.

    This visit was no different, and I found myself watching people, peering into their expressions of loss, pride and pain as I mentally catalogued the objects left behind. Then I saw it, a plastic bag containing a letter and Bronze Star medal. I slowly read it, almost feeling guilty for peeking into the relationship. It reads...

    "Dear Dad (Sgt Maj Pringle),

    Tomorrow is Father's Day and it has been over 46 years since you went Missing in Vietnam. One of my proudest moments was to accept your Bronze Star Medal in your absence when your status had been changed to Presumptive Death. As the years passed, I slowly pieced together what you never wanted to worry mom with. You did more than what your job required, you went above and beyond.

    Without word or presence, these are the same characteristics you passed on to me. There were times that Mom would remind me that I was my Father's Son when I did certain things. In some ways our lives were in Parallel.

    Today I went to..."

    The letter was folded over, out of view. I couldn't move myself to disturb it to read the rest.

    As I re-read and absorbed the letter I wondered if my absence would leave such a legacy.
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