Volunteers Read Names of 148,000 Fallen Soldiers in Memorial Day Roll Call

Discussion in 'OFF-Topic / Misc.' started by ToughOmbre, May 23, 2009.

  1. ToughOmbre

    ToughOmbre Active Member

    Mar 18, 2007
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    #1 ToughOmbre, May 23, 2009
    Last edited: May 23, 2009
    A beautiful tribute in Riverside, CA to our brave warriors! :salute:

    Saturday, May 23, 2009

    RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Abts, Richard. Adamski, Walter. Ahlman, Enoch.

    The names are whisked away by the hot, gusting wind as soon as they are spoken, forgotten in the stream of the next name and the next name and the next name.

    Fuller, Addison. Fuller, Mary. Furlong, John.

    The story of America could be told through these names, tales of bravery and hesitation, of dreams achieved or deferred and of battles won and lost.

    Taken alone, they are just words, identities stripped of place and time, stripped of rank and deeds and meaning.

    But they are not taken alone. They are taken together — 148,000 names, representing the entire veteran population of Riverside National Cemetery, a roll call of the dead read aloud over 10 days by more than 300 volunteers.

    They read in pairs, rotating through 15-minute shifts in the beating sun, in the chilly desert night and in the pre-dawn hours thick with mosquitoes.

    Some time on Memorial Day, they will read the last name on the 2,465th page.

    Some read for their country.

    Others read for a father lost in battle or a beloved son cut down in his prime.

    And one man reads for no one in particular — except, maybe, for himself.

    Richard Blackaby was just 18 and fresh out of high school in 1966 when he was drafted for Vietnam. His father had served as a Seabee in the U.S. Navy during World War II and Blackaby was desperate to follow in his path.

    But the Army said no: Blackaby had epilepsy and asthma and was unfit for service.

    Twelve years later, Blackaby — now married with three children — reapplied to the Army and was accepted to the 4th Infantry Division as a forward observer.

    But Vietnam was over and the eager recruit spent the next six years waiting for a war that never came. When he was honorably discharged in 1984, he was a sergeant but had never experienced combat, had never called in a real air strike or fired at a real target.

    Nearly 25 years later, Blackaby's missed opportunity weighs on him as he patrols his self-selected battleground: Riverside, the nation's busiest national cemetery. While others gave their lives, Blackaby gives his time — and a lot of it, nearly 30 hours a week.

    Over the years, Blackaby has made his specialty here not among the remembered and the honored, but among the lost, the abandoned and the forgotten. The work seems to fit his story of missed chances and dashed dreams, his yearning to belong to something greater than himself.

    Every day, the 60-year-old grandfather with the crinkly, blue-gray eyes slips on the black leather vest that's his personal uniform and stands at attention as the cemetery honors the cremated remains of dozens of abandoned or forgotten veterans.

    Every day, he salutes as the National Guard reads the names off the simple wooden boxes filled with ashes.

    Every day, he accepts the folded flag for soldiers he will never know — and then gives it back for the next day's dead.

    Dog tags engraved with the names of 145 forgotten veterans dangle from a thick key chain that never leaves his side, a different color for each branch of service. He knows the story behind almost every name.

    "If I didn't do it, who would do it?" he says. "I mean, they have friends, they HAVE to have friends. They don't go through a whole lifetime and not have somebody that cares about them."

    And, true to form, Blackaby reads names — hundreds of them — for the roll call project.

    He reads for hours on overnight shifts in the cemetery's eerie gloom, the podium illuminated only by a floodlight. He reads during the weekend afternoons and late into a Saturday night to cover gaps in the schedule.

    "Every one that we read off, I feel like I am probably doing their family a favor because they can't be here," he said.

    "I'm reading off a whole litany of history. It kind of makes you wonder what's behind each name, what their life was like, what they did."

  2. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

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