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A new respect for a special day

While looking over the list of veterans who were killed or missing in action from Covington County in Tuesday's newspaper, I came across one name I already new, and another I had to ask about.

Growing up, I always knew that my dad had a cousin killed during the Vietnam War. His name was Douglas Scroggins, and his name is on The Wall in Washington D.C.

I've visited The Wall, found his name and made a rubbing for my family's history. It was a very moving moment, and for those who have never visited this memorial, it is a very powerful experience.

When I was in college, I was fortunate enough to visit our nation's capitol for a week during the 1996 Presidential Election. Just feeling the energy was one thing - but being able to visit a monument that no other person in my family had been able to visit was even better.

My dad's family had closure with his cousin. His body was recovered, and he was given a proper burial.

A lady I met that day wasn't as fortunate.

Her son's name was on the Wall and she had never been able to give him a proper burial.

The day I visited, this woman - about my grandmother's age - was leaving a little memorial to her fallen son. It was his birthday and she was trying to cope with the loss. To make the moment all that more powerful, it was her first visit to the memorial.

I slowly and cautiously approached the woman and asked if she was OK. She told me her story. I told her my story.

I asked if I could photograph her, for a school project, and she agreed - only if I promised not to publish the photograph.

I agreed, but I have the photograph hanging in the hallway of my house. It was probably the most impactful moment of my entire D.C. trip.

It's also an image that I'll never forget.

When I was looking over the WWII names, I came across a Frank Biggs. I had never heard this name before, but knowing that 90 percent of the Biggs in this county are related to me, I had to ask my dad.

He confirmed that this was in fact a cousin of my grandfather.

I had researched my family history before, but never really explored beyond the immediacy of

my grandfather's ancestry. I didn't branch too much into his cousins, etc.

But, learning that I had another relative killed in action - that was something new.

On my mom's side, my grandfather, great-grandfather, several great-uncles and cousins had served in World War II; and my mother's only brother had served in Vietnam. Fortunately, there were no casualties on that side of the family - although hearing the stories of my grandfather - that is a casualty in and of itself. My uncle still doesn't talk about his experience in Vietnam.

I did however, come across a name that I recognized - Horace G. Giddens Jr. That is a relative of one of my mom's cousins - so I guess in actuality - no family is truly spare from the price of war.

I've watched the casualty reports from Operation Iraqi Freedom with great interest, knowing it's only a matter of time before someone from home is on that list. I have seen a name of a friend from college on that list - and that's bad enough.

I also visited the cemetery Tuesday and reflected on all of this, and said a little prayer, thankful that our country has been blessed with patriots willing to sacrifice everything so that I can continue to live a life without fear and inquisition.