WASHINGTON, D.C. (WCMH) — The war memorials in our nation’s capital are awe-inspiring. Tributes all, to the awe-inspiring men and women who chose to serve. Many generation after generation, like Vietnam Radioman Specialist grade 4 Charlie Leatherman.
“This is my son,” Charlie proudly introduces Troy to one of the vets he traveled with. “What are you doing down here?” surprised by his son’s visit.
“I’m going to go through the wall with you,” Troy smiles.
Airman Troy Leatherman surprised his dad so they could go to the Vietnam wall together.
“Kind of a big day for you and to have the two of you together. Is there special meaning?” NBC4’s Brad Johansen asked Charlie.
“Yes, there is,” he replied, getting choked up. When asked why he was getting emotional, Charlie said, “I’d like to keep it to myself.”
Troy’s grandfather served under General George Patton in World War I. Charlie served in Vietnam and 33 years on active duty. In the Leatherman family, life is service.
“In the Army or civilian life, comradery, comradery is a great thing when you know you’ve got someone on your back and you’ve got their back,” Charlie said.
“I pray every day the kids of America never have to go through what I went through,” Army Vietnam veteran Bill Alspach said as he sat on a bench in Arlington National Cemetery.
Alspach, who served three tours in Vietnam, said he was never welcomed home. When asked if he was bitter about that, he said, “No, not at all.”
He went on to spend 30 more years in the service, retiring as a sergeant major.
“Everything that I’ve done I’ve learned from and I kind of like the person I am now and I appreciate what I’ve gone through and so I wouldn’t change a thing,” he said.
That includes his wife of 51 years.
“I will tell you many people will hardly get to meet their heroes,” she said. “I married mine.”
Linda Alspach served as a nurse at Ft. Knox, taking care of the wives of soldiers. Her family served as well. The Honor Flight Columbus trip was for her, Bill said.
“I love the feeling of being American,” Bill said. “I love the feeling of the positive energy this group has shown and it makes me feel like there’s hope, hope for a better country again.”
Service, these families have found, is the foundation of their homeland.
“I’m actually surprised I’m holding it together this well,” Troy said of the emotions he felt standing at the wall.
“Peace,” Linda smiles. “It is well with our soul. We feel peace.”
And that, for any family, is hard to find.