Time does not forgive, nor is it lenient as we progress through each day. Time moves forward relentless in its unique way. Time has pushed me forward 4 days from that finish in Rockland, Maine, on a stormy Friday morning when the winds blew and the rain pummeled a small group of us as we ran slowly towards the shore. It has taken me 4 days to come up with the words and to remember………………..
My son is a great man. He works hard and raises 2 children on his own at the young age of 26. I admire and respect his devotion and dedication to his son and daughter. His path in this world could have taken him in many different directions and the one he is on today with me, will lead him to the placing of the 3rd flag. He reads the name of Marine 2nd Lieutenant Therrell Childers who was 30 years old. I watch my son. His face his hidden under his hat. The rain runs down his nose. Around us, all are quiet as he places it in the ground next to a small aspen tree. He places his hand over his heart and I salute. That could have been his name there on that flag. I am fortunate that it wasn’t. We are linked in this moment together and I see that it means so much to him to do this for a Marine who is gone, to have a connection.
Now there are only 2 miles left and time seems to be moving even faster. The wind picks up, the rain falls harder as we make our way through the neighborhood to a spot on the corner where the one ways begin in downtown. The wheels on this stroller have seen the entire country. They have rolled from the Pacific to the Atlantic through the Columbia River Gorge, the mountains of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado. They have carried these last 2 flags across the stifling heat and never ending expanse of the Midwest. How many revolutions? That is one statistic I have not determined. Through the rolling, colorful hills of New York, Vermont and Maine. Through snow, wind and rain. Through dirt, gravel and pavement and now just a short mile to their final destination, a small boat ramp in a small harbor.
My daughter is a great woman. She is only 20 and yet, is wise beyond her years with wit and intelligence and beauty to match. Like her brother, her path in life brought her to Maine to run 6 miles with her dad and plant her connection, Marine Captain Ryan Beaupre who was 30 years old. The roads divide here and we stop. Under a large Maple tree she place his flag. She is alone. Her black rain jacket whips in the wind, its hood is pulled tightly around her auburn hair and blue eyes. His name is read and she places her hand over her heart and I salute from a few yards away. She pauses then and I look at her and it is a moment frozen in my mind. Her hands are clenched up under her chin and tears are streaming down her cheeks. Her body is shaking and she sobs. She cries for this Marine, for a soul in heaven, for eyes that can only watch from above. For the freedoms in life he has afforded her. She stands alone and her connection is buried in her thoughts now. Thoughts and emotion that are only hers but are reflected in those tears.
I move on and in this last mile to the last few yards, to the last few feet, to the moment I touch the water I am still not alone. The presence I have felt from the start of this run is now almost gone however , it lingers over me and I know Major Jay Aubin is watching and smiling. As eyes watched from above, as names were remembered, they took their spot along the roads of America to watch over and protect their mile until there was only one. I salute the heavens. I am done.
In time, as I reflect on what has transpired, the value and meaning of these last 6 months will become even more apparent to me. I discovered that impossible is only a word and that the heart can surpass so many boundaries. I discovered that we are a strong country when being strong is the only option we have. That despite what we hear and read and see we are the greatest country in the world with the greatest people. I saw it in the faces of America. From store clerks to Veterans to schoolchildren and farmers and highway workers. The people I came in contact with added so much to my life and to the memory of the flags that were carried. The wall is complete now. It spans our great land and even though the permanence of a small flag may be blown away by winds and weather in time, the permanence of the moment it was placed, the honor bestowed upon that spot will remain forever……….