I was Surrounded by Greatness.
Sometimes in life you can feel the magic in the air around you, somehow you know you are standing in the same space that was filled with bravery and honor long before you got there. All around me I saw old military planes, jeeps, wagons and re-constructed POW dwellings where people risked their lives and in some cases lost them.
Looking up at those majestic wings my mind was filled with thoughts of the lifetime of this jet and the world it had grown up in and grown old in. It still had a look of great strength and pride but, just like me there had been bumps and bruises along the way. I was at the Pavilion at USS Alabama Park in Mobile that evening, turning in every direction to see these exhibits, aircraft, landcraft and other things I would never have expected to see.
My son Eric Erdman was performing for an annual celebration in honor of the workers at a company called Seabulk Towing. In addition to live music; a feast of seafood and all of the trimmings was prepared and ready. Tables with brightly colored tablecloths filled a large cleared out section as they waited anxiously for the guests to arrive.
Eric began playing his music at 5pm and people began arriving shortly before that. It was a gathering of people who loved one another and seemed to be happy to be alive and happy to be sitting in the middle of greatness as they ate this fabulous meal. The surrounding scenery could not have been better.
As the evening progressed, I decided to walk around and get a closer look at some displays I saw on Vietnam. I am happy I did that; yet it brought back some truly gut-wrenching times.
When I was completing the last couple of years of my high schools days; Vietnam was the topic everyone was discussing. Many of my friends, my brother and my boyfriend were all soon heading off to fight a battle in a place most of us had not even known existed before the Viet Nam War grabbed us and would not let go. I lost friends and neighbors in that battle and my boyfriend was killed by a hand grenade. He was an exceptionally kind person and his passing left a huge, un-fillable void. Though I was only 18 years old at the time, it altered something inside of me for all the years that have followed. I still have a shoe box filled with his letters. It is a part of him that I can still touch and hold.
There was a section in this Vietnam display that focused on prisoners of war. It brought gruesome thoughts of what those guys went through. One display brought tears to my eyes the minute I realized what it was. The captured men had taken their government issued army green socks and positioned them into the shape of a Christmas tree on the wall of their tiny prison. They were imprisoned but their hearts were filled with thoughts of family celebration and the love they left behind.
Billy Joel is quoted as saying:
"The good ole days weren't always good and tomorrow ain't as bad as it seems"
When it comes to war, the past is sometimes painful, but it is something we must never forget.
It is amazing to me that in this huge pavilion lies every emotion. There is pride, pain, laughter, joy, and right now a celebration of teamwork, hard work and family. It is not easy to get so much between the walls of one building, but here it is tonight for us to experience.
Eric played his beautiful songs with a smile. I could see his excitement as he looked around at huge helicopters and airplanes, ground support vehicles and so much more. For a musician, it has to be awesome to be able to perform in the middle of all those things that represent great power and strength. For me it feels like touching the past as it is sitting all around us.
As I stepped out at the end of the evening, I glanced up at the stars and I felt the spirits of those I lost so many years ago. When I arrived home, I went straight to the letters for a touch.
This was a happy night, a night of remembrance. An evening filled with love, great food and music. I am so proud to have experienced yet another show that rebooted my soul.