Last fall I received an email from a Facebook friend of my sister-in-law’s. After a brief introduction of who was emailing me, the sender explained that her husband is a 1964 graduate of West Point and she would like to schedule a tour of the Memorial during their 50th reunion weekend. She also mentioned it would be 100 people. I quickly suggested she contact the Tribute Center and forwarded her the information. I did say that I was more than willing to be one of walking tour docents but 100 people will require more than one guide. Through the months arrangements were made for the group to visit Tribute but because of the opening of the Museum the group was told that the Memorial may not be open on May 17 but they were welcome to meet with a docent in gallery 5 instead of a walking tour.
So this morning I traveled into the Tribute Center to speak to 100 people in 2 groups of 50. As I thought about who this group was, I realized as 1964 graduates of USMA at West Point these men most likely went to Vietnam. As graduates of the USMA, they had served their nation, my nation. I realized as I was growing up they were servicing our country.
Well, due to traffic and more traffic I arrived at the Tribute Center at 10:28 for a 10:30 group.Just in time for the group but these folks had arrived early so they were waiting for me. I quickly put my jacket and purse in a locker, grabbed some photos and walked into gallery 5. The gentleman in charge of the group pulled me aside and said “before you start speaking I would like to introduce you to the group.” Okay, I had never met this man but his wife was the one who had emailed me and set everything up. He got everyone’s attention using some military jargon and proceeded to introduce me. He mentioned I was an email friend of his wife, that Richard* had been a firefighter and had been killed on September 11. He commented that he had found a YouTube video of me speaking at a Christian college and suggested everyone watch it. 🙂 One of the things I had said in that video had really stuck with him. He stated that I had said “Bruce’s decision to enter the building on September 11 had been made long before September 11. Just as Christ’s decision to go to cross was made long before the Garden.” He went onto say that “23 members of the class of 1964 had died in Vietnam and 1 had died in the Dominican Republic.” He also said “that their decision to serve their country had been made on the parade ground on July 5, 1964 as they (we) raised our right hand and took the oath. Actually it had been made before that.” He also commented that duty is a form of love. He then introduced another man who handed me their class coin and announced I was an honorary member of the class of 1964. I was overwhelmed and humbled. I thanked them for their service, made reference to the fact that Bruce had been a firefighter at West Point before being FDNY and then told my September 11 story.
When I finished, I did it one more time. The man who introduced me the first time, introduced me a second time and joked there wasn’t another coin. Wow!! I can’t believe I got one coin. I am ever amazed at the opportunities I am given. I am ever humbled by meeting the class of 1964. I am also very glad that the class of 1964 did actually get to go onto the Memorial after they finished at Tribute and they had a beautiful weather to boot.
*Richard Bruce Van Hine was my husband’s full name. People who knew him referred to him as Bruce. The gentleman today referred to him as Richard and even mentioned to the second group that I called my husband Bruce but he would refer to him as Richard. I thought that showed respect.