"Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13.
I saw this quote on a blog entry from a woman who had lost a loved one in the Vietnam War.
Last Saturday, I took a short ride with my friend south to Sandstone. We spent the day at The Moving Wall, a half-sized replica of the Washington, D.C., Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. My friend's brother, Dale Wayrynen, personified that quote.
On May 18, 1967, Wayrynen found himself in the middle of a fierce firefight. Here's what happened, "... a live enemy grenade landed in the center of the tightly grouped men. Sp4 Wayrynen, quickly assessing the danger to the entire squad as well as to his platoon leader who was nearby, shouted a warning, pushed one soldier out of the way, and threw himself on the grenade at the moment it exploded. He was mortally wounded."
It's true that this courageous soldier gave his life for his country. But when the actual moment arrived, it's safe to say he also gave his life for his fellow man. To do what he did takes instinctual reaction. He didn't have time to think. He only had time to react. From deep down in his gut he knew the choice was between losing many of his nearby squad members, or he sacrifice himself for the greater good. He made the ultimate sacrifice for which he posthumously received the Medal of Honor.
My friend, John (Usef) Wayrynen, carried that medal to the wall in Sandstone. I had the honor and privilege of joining him. Many people came by our table to see the Medal of Honor. For the majority, this was the first time they had ever seen one. Many took photos, some shared stories and some shed tears. Myself, I was very humbled.
I played a minor supporting role during the Vietnam War. Here I was in Sandstone, surrounded by my compatriots who had seen actual combat. Some were sporting physical scars from that war. Others were sporting emotional scars. All were there to honor their 58,000 brothers and sisters who died in their war, the Vietnam War. Many of them are bikers with now graying beards. All were decked out in their medals, badges and colors of their units. Many were from Dale's unit, the 101st Airborne.
One of the primary reasons for the Moving Wall is so veterans, friends, family and all Americans can finally do justice and honor the many fallen soldiers from that unpopular war. Many returning veterans who were not honored upon return often faced a hostile welcome home. All that has changed now as was evident at the program last Saturday.
Becky Lourey, who lost her son in the Iraq War, was the keynote speaker. She invited my friend onto the stage and told of his brother's sacrifice and that his Medal of Honor would be on display for all to view.
We were about to leave when both decided to take one last look at his brother's etching on the wall. We were ready to go when my friend said, "Holy cow! Look at this. I've been looking for this name a long time. He and another guy also received the Medal of Honor that day from Nixon."
He asked me if I remembered those two women who were in the photo I saw where President Nixon presented the medals.
"Those were the moms of the other two guys who died. I still keep in touch with them."
The two soldiers had died on the same day in the same firefight. Their heroic actions led to receiving the Medal of Honor. This proximity of action meant their names would be close to each other on the wall. Usef began searching and instantly found the other soldier's name.
Before leaving, we attempted a photo of us at The Moving Wall. Seeing the difficulty we were having, a young man stepped up and asked if he could assist. After he took a photo of us, we returned to the wall to look one more time at the two fallen heroes' names. We searched for five minutes. We searched another five minutes to no avail. Their names had disappeared!
We said goodbye to a fellow veteran as we were leaving. Usef reiterated the story of finding the two Medal of Honor soldiers' names and the corresponding disappearance.
"Their mission was complete for they had already found you," he explained.