Groundbreaking for the WWII Memorial
Washington, DC -- November 11, 2000
As told by Susan Hadler
Sitting with our Father's Generation
Nick Etcheverry and I attended the Groundbreaking Ceremony together. The
presence of our fathers was all around us. Old men in uniforms, dressed up,
remembering together. Our dads belonged there, and we were there for them,
wearing our pins, feeling that old mixture of sadness and pride.
And then we saw Jeff Ward and Connie Caldwell up front, way up front with the
gold shovels, up front with the President and Tom Hanks and Bob Dole, up
front where they've belonged all their lives, where we all belong wherever
and whenever our fathers are remembered.
There's Jeff Ward in the lower left-hand corner!
A deep and rare sense of belonging settled over me seeing Connie and Jeff up there.
The ceremony was not just a victory celebration. Our fathers and those who
died in WWII were remembered and mourned. When Connie and Jeff were
introduced to the crowd, the speaker told of American children who were
orphaned, "too often forgotten and lost in the victory." Then I saw Jeff,
our own beloved Jeff up on the big screen as they talked about his father
(not getting it exactly right, but close) and about Jeff himself.
There's Connie, too!
And then our own dear Connie appeared on the big screen and her father was spoken of
and Connie was introduced.
The full text of Ernie Pyle's story about Captain Waskow
I was bursting with pride and thanks for Connie and Jeff and AWON. We are no longer lost.
We are no longer invisible. We are no longer silent. We, represented by Jeff and Connie,
were up there with the rest where we belong.
Tom Hanks read a missive from Ernie Pyle, a description of the dead being
carried down a mountain in Italy. One of the dead was a much loved Captain.
One by one his men came over to say good-bye. Each one said good-bye in a
way that reflected his relationship with his Captain.
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Bob Dole was central to the Memorial effort.
The symbol and spirit of our nation.
Dole mentioned war orphans in his speech and when we met him later at the
reception, he seemed pleased to have acknowledged us.
A bugler played Taps and we stood together feeling love and loss and saying
good-bye once again to our fathers and all those who died in that war.
After the speeches a bald eagle spread its great wings and flew low over the
crowd invoking the spirit of freedom our fathers fought and died for.
Many thanks to Susan Hadler for these pictures and
At the end of the ceremony those who had fought were asked to stand when the
band played the song of their branch of service. When they played the anthem
of the Army I stood for my father and all of our fathers. As I stood and
sang with tears in my eyes, I felt his presence.
for this special report.