memorials at night

A few weekends ago, a good friend of mine came to town.  He's not an ordinary friend: I've known him since high school (he later admitted to a crush on me!) and we've had contact off-and-on throughout college.  Recently, he officially became a lieutenant in the 82nd Airborne, and since he was on this coast, came up from Fort Bragg to see the sights of DC.
So we did.  I love sightseeing & the excuse to be touristy, so it was perfect.  After we were kicked out of the Natural History Museum (early closing), it was dusk, and he said he hadn't seen the (relatively) new World War II monument.  It is one of my favorites, so I led the way.

It was turning darker as we made our way across the Mall and past the Washington Monument, and what I hadn't realized was that all the water was gone from the memorial.  

The few spotlights were the only illumination, and we were completely alone on this chilly January night.  I've never seen the memorial empty.  It makes one more contemplative, more willing to read every inscription, every engraving, because you feel as if you're the only one keeping it alive. 

We walked by the bronzes, which show different scenes from the Atlantic & Pacific theatre.  By happenstance, one of the ones we walked by was the one of paratroopers jumping from an airplane.  I slowed down and murmered something or other and pointed.  We stopped.  He looked, paused, and then pointed to the figure right at the door: "That'd be me."  Then going down the line, he identified the sergeant and "his men."

I couldn't do anything but hold his arm.  

We walked on, and I spent a good deal of time just staring at the distance at the Lincoln Memorial.  I suppose it brings me comfort.  But when I stared back at the boy, he just looked at me and said: "What do you think our memorial will look like?" 

I had no answer.  For once.  What to say, to a boy -- I suppose a man -- who is leaving for Iraq in a matter of weeks?  What does one answer when he asks what his monument -- the monument to this war -- will look like?

I just cried.

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