Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Veterans Memorial Park

One early evening last week I left LC and Jamie at the house and headed towards town.
We only live four or so rural miles from downtown Cody but it feels as though it is so much further because it is so completely "country" and not "city".
When I first left the house I had planned on simply heading to the grocery store
The Memorial Park is located right off the Greybull Highway, adjacent to the tiny Yellowstone airport and immediately across the road from Beck Lake.
On the spur of the moment I pulled into the parking lot of the park, parked my truck and climbed out, suddenly wanting very much to walk in this quiet place.
Instead of pulling into the main parking area I pulled into a side lot and as I stood beside my truck for a few moments looking out over the mountains I saw the Vietnam memorial.
Seeing it immediately made me think of LC.  He joined the military when he was only 17.  Spent time in basic training and then another almost year in specialized training.  And then he spent three years on the ground in Vietnam as part of a small unit.
By the time he came back to the United States he was a hardened war veteran who was not yet quite 21 years old.
A hardened war veteran who was not yet 21 years old.
My youngest son is a Canadian citizen and legal immigrant in the United States who spent four years in the United States Air Force and who served two tours in Iraq during that time.
I try very hard to not talk politics either with those I know or on this blog.
But I never ever lose sight of just how many people, over too many years and too many wars, have sacrificed for this country.
It breaks my heart when I think about it too much and makes me forever grateful...................
This memorial park is larger than many, and surprisingly large for a small town of only 9000 people.
It contains memorials to every war that the United States has been involved with since WWII.
It contains benches for sitting.  Lights for those who want to visit the park after dark.  Long pathways for wandering and looking and contemplating and remembering.
There is much green space within this park, and it overlooks Beck Lake, Rattlesnake Mountain and Cedar Mountain.
It is a beautiful and serene and respectful place.................
The WWII memorial is huge and expansive.................
There was no rhyme or reason to where I was wandering.
I was simply taking my time and wandering along paths without forethought, enjoying the quiet and enjoying an evening that was beautiful and finally cooling.
Eventually I made my way to the front of the park where the main parking lot is located.
The monument at the front of the park could never be mistaken for representing any other state but the Cowboy State.................
During the summer the days seem to become calmer and calmer as the evening progresses.
There was no wind on this day.  The sun was still shining and the water was almost mirror-still...............
There was a bench located close to the back side of the park, and it overlooked a section of Beck Lake. 
I sat down and looked out over the quiet.
Beck Lake spans the highway.  The section I was looking at is located adjacent to the memorial park.
Water accesses through a huge drainage under the highway and Beck Lake proper continues on the opposite side of the highway.
I had left the house planning only to stop at a grocery store - had not planned on stopping at this place - but I sat for a long time and eventually discovered that I was in no hurry to leave.
Eventually I began to slowly walk again and continued to thoughtlessly wander walkways in this special and honorable place..............
Yellowstone Airport is very small and with only one short runway .
In real and commercial transportation terms it means that only small commuter planes can land in this place.
More than anything else though, this airport is a place for private planes to land.
There are a lot of very rich people who live in Wyoming, a lot of very rich people who commute to vacation and summer homes in Wyoming, and a lot of very rich people who visit this region.
During the summer Cody has very busy airspace, and it is common to see three or four private planes land even during the brief time you are walking at Beck Lake Park or Veterans Memorial Park.
I stood and watched this small plane as it crossed low over the highway and approached for a landing..............
And snapped this picture as the plan crossed directly in front of my path, only a few hundred feet above me................
After taking many pictures of each of the monuments in the park I spent another few minutes taking larger pictures of the beautiful area.
I watched this couple for a few minutes before moving on.
They were not sitting close and the distance between them at first gave me pause.
But as I watched them I realized that they were simply and comfortably and quietly talking with each other...............
This monument is dedicated to Lt Shane Childers of Powell.
He was the first American service member to die in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and LC and I attended the unveiling and dedication of this monument during Memorial Day weekend last year.
That day was very cold, windy and damp and it was attended by many many local people who wanted to honor this young man.
There were so many people in fact, that on that day it was impossible to get a decent shot of the monument itself.
A link to that day:
The monument is located in a gravel area immediately adjacent to the side road close to where I had parked my truck.
As such it stands alone and away from the other monuments in the park and I have never been able to make up my mind whether that is a good thing or a bad thing.
In one way it stands out.  Sitting alone in remembrance of a young man who died for his country.
In another way the monument somehow gets lost in translation - sitting off the grass, sitting away from the other monuments, sitting off the walkways that almost compel you to wander the entire park.
And each man stands with his face in the light of his own drawn sword. Ready to do what a hero can............Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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