The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall arrived in Youngstown this May 2014 for a short stay. I watched from my downtown office window at the George Voinovich Government Building as workers assembled it in a parking lot on nearby Wood Street. I remembered visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., not long after graduating from law school. The names of 58,263 Americans are inscribed on the wall in honor of their sacrifices, including that of Francis L. Ware, III.
Francis Ware was from the West Side of Youngstown. He was a corporal in the 8th Calvary of the United States Army. I never met Francis but my siblings and I attended Holy Name Catholic School with his younger brother. Francis was killed in combat on March 6, 1970, in Tay Ninh Province in South Vietnam. He was only 20 years of age when he died. I was a student in Sister Lucille’s 5th grade class when news of his death was announced over the school’s intercom system. The principal asked all of the students to pray for the Ware family during their time of sorrow. At the direction of our teacher, we arose from our desks, made the sign of the cross, and together recited the “Our Father”. That was over 44 years ago.
In the passing decades since that time, new generations of Americans have been born and have grown to adulthood. They have graduated from colleges, married, and raised families of their own. They have dreamed dreams filled with hope and promise. They have seen the beautiful sunsets of summers. They have endured the hardships of long and cold winters. They have known both happiness and sorrow, and they have received both the good and bad that life has to offer. They have lived fulfilled and complete lives in a free and democratic nation. These experiences, shared by each of us, have all been born in the sacrifice of those who have perished for freedom’s cause.
As I stood at my office window I thought of the words once written by Rudyard Kipling, “All we have of freedom — All we use or know — This our fathers bought for us, long and long ago.” I think Kipling was writing of the sacrifices made by one generation for the benefit of succeeding generations. I can’t think of any words more appropriate for reflection on Memorial Day than these.
I left my office that late May afternoon and walked the short distance to the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall. A gentle rain fell as I made my way up Hazel Street to Wood Street. As I drew nearer to the memorial, I could see an American flag, and the flags of the Armed Forces of the United States, positioned atop the metal wall. The flags waved in the cool breeze against a grey and overcast sky. A memorial attendant helped me to find Panel W 13, Line 89 where the name of Francis L. Ware, III was inscribed. She made a pencil rubbing of the name on a small sheet of paper and handed it to me. She smiled and moved down the wall to help another individual searching for a name.
I remained in front of the wall for a solemn moment; in front of the inscribed names of 58,263 Americans; in front of the name of Francis L. Ware, III. And, as I did so many years before, I made the sign of the cross and quietly recited the “Our Father”. It was the best way I could think of to say thank you. Thank you for your service; thank you for your sacrifice; and thank you for our freedom. May we be deserving of your precious gift.
David Bobovnyik is a lawyer who lives in Canfield and writes from time to time about growing up on Youngstown’s West Side.