This scene was originally part of A Lovely Dream: Book 1 of the Seneca & Michael Duet. Although I loved the scene and wanted to leave it in the novel, it seemed to interrupt the flow of events at that point in the story. Therefore, I deleted it. However, many readers were touched when I shared this deleted content in a blog post and in my newsletter. I decided to post it to the website so that fans could catch a glimpse of what happened when Michael and Seneca visited the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Seneca tells their story.
A Touching Encounter
The Korean War Veterans Memorial had an immediate and deep impact on me. A triangle of granite walls depicted military action on land, sea, and air. As we wandered inside the area along the perimeter of the “field” of larger-than-life, realistic-looking soldiers made of steel, I began to cry. The “men” brought home to me more than any other memorial the personal loss of life, limb, and innocence, as well as the dedication to the ideals of their country.
I removed a tissue from my purse and wiped at my eyes before looking across to where Michael stood near one of the statues. Tears streamed down his cheeks.
I went over to him, putting my arms around his neck. He held me tightly against him and cried. I wondered what thoughts were racing through his mind, what battles were being replayed, and what losses he was re-living. Reflecting upon my own reaction to the memorial, I could only imagine how this was affecting him and hoped that it would help to heal old wounds and not re-open them.
We broke apart and looked down at an Asian girl of perhaps six or seven. My first thought was that the child was lost and needed help finding her parents.
Michael accepted the tissue I handed him and wiped at his tears, but he couldn’t seem to stop crying altogether. He asked the little girl what he could do to help her.
“Nothing,” she answered politely. “Are you a soldier?”
“I was,” he replied. “I guess I always will be.”
“Wait here, please.”
Before either of us could respond, the child darted off. Michael tensed, ceased crying, and moved closer to me, scanning the area as if waiting for an attack. I figured that he probably was, considering what he had been and done in the decade before he’d met me. Who was I to question his reaction? I had no idea how he had been treated by those in other countries during the course of his military service, but I knew that he’d lived in dangerous circumstances for most of those years.
The girl returned, holding the hands of an elderly Asian man and woman. She introduced herself and them before telling Michael that her grandmother and grandfather had something they wished to tell him.
Michael’s expression was impassive but respectful as he said, “I’d be happy to talk with your grandparents.”
She relayed this to them, and they nodded before beginning to speak.
“Grandfather says that when he was young there was much fighting in Korea,” the child translated. “The Americans came and fought hard to protect his village and other villages, and many died with his family and friends. Grandmother told me the Americans helped for a long time, and our people helped the Americans. Everyone where they lived was sad that Korea was in two parts, but they were happy to be free on their side. Grandfather and Grandmother are proud to visit here to honor the Americans who helped them.”
The elderly man extended his hand to Michael, and they shook. Then, Michael reached for the grandmother’s outstretched hand, shaking it more gently. He told the girl that it was every soldier’s duty and privilege to protect and preserve life and liberty. She translated this to her grandparents, who nodded gravely. Then, the grandmother withdrew something wrapped in brightly colored cloth from her large purse, said something to the child, and gestured for her to give it to Michael.
“Grandmother wishes for you to have this bowl. Many American soldiers ate out of it during the war. She says it belongs to all American soldiers, and she wants one to have it. She was going to leave it here, but she decided that you will take better care of it.”
Michael accepted the simple ceramic bowl, staring at it for a long moment. Then he drew himself up to his full height and told the child, “Please, thank your grandparents for this priceless gift.” Then, turning towards me, he asked, “Would you hold this for a minute?”
I accepted the bowl and held it close to me as Michael withdrew two business cards from one pocket. He handed both to the old man and explained, “I work with American soldiers who need help after serving their country and want to ask your permission to display this bowl and its story in my business.”
The child explained this to the couple, who nodded enthusiastically.
“They will go home soon,” the girl said rather sadly. “If they write their story, then you will not be able to read it.”
“I have Korean friends,” Michael explained. “Tell them to write their story and mail it to me so that I can have it translated. If they don’t mind, ask them to put their address in the envelope so that I can send them a gift of thanks.”
She relayed his words to her grandparents, and the grandfather said something in a firm tone of voice.
“Grandfather says your country has already given him a gift, but he will put his address anyway. He and our family thank you again.” She held out her hand and said sweetly, “It was nice to meet you.”
Michael took the girl’s hand in his and gingerly shook it. Then he bowed slightly to the grandparents. They bowed back and took their granddaughter’s hands before slowly walking away.
“I need to go,” Michael said quietly. “Let’s go.”