This past weekend something horrible happened and I couldn’t be more grateful. The PFC Andrew Meari Memorial Park that was recently dedicated to my son was vandalized. Specifically, the park sign and the plaque explaining who he was and why the park was dedicated to him were tagged with spray paint.
My family and I found out about this around 1:00pm on Sunday, when friends of Andrew’s posted about it on Facebook. Instantly, that posting was shared dozens of times and hundreds of comments poured in expressing outrage and promising dire consequences to the perpetrators. I was beyond sick with anger and grief, rage and sorrow.
It took about another hour before I could get over there. I knew I was driving almost literally with blood in my eye but as I arrived at the park I initially thought there was actually something wrong with my vision. The sign looked as fresh and pristine as the day it was installed.
As I stood in the middle of the street stupidly staring at it, the neighbor I had intended to speak to pulled up and informed me of the part of the weekend’s events for which I will be forever grateful. They woke up that bright Sunday morning to a group of people clustered around the sign, armed with sponges, rags, cleaning agents and even a rake.
This was how they found out the sign had been vandalized. Being the good people they are, coffee and water was offered to this group of neighbors who saw the damage and simply acted.
I have to say that again. A group of neighbors, I still don’t know who, saw the desecration to the memorial and acted. By 12 noon on Sunday morning there was not a trace of the damage left. They even raked the mulch smooth around the base of the sign and flag pole.
I’ve written many times about my fear of what will happen to my son’s memory once I am gone. He was my only child. He did not have a wife or children of his own. I’ve also written that those moments of weakness are always followed by the realization that though he was an only child, he had many, many brothers and sisters both in and out of the military.
After this weekend’s events, I’m reminded of something else I’ve said but need to tell myself more frequently; he was my son, but so many who never even met him in life have made him their soldier. He was from their town. He went to their school. He played in the park they grew up playing in, the park that now bears his name.
Life is sometimes good, even when it appears to be anything but. And that’s another lesson from this past weekend I’m going to try very hard to remember.
At 1:00pm on Sunday afternoon, I experienced a blackness of rage and hate so deep and all consuming, it scared me. Even more frightening was the helplessness and despair I felt over how I would ever be able to protect my son’s memorial from the evil that exists in the hearts of others.
Little more than an hour later, I was equally overcome, but with gratitude. Now, I just need to continue to remember there are and always will be people who may not have known my son, but who will honor him and protect his memory – and his memorial - because of what he chose to do with his life. He was my son, but he was and remains their soldier.