Veterans, MIAs remembered at Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Father's Day
The Father's Day roses, carefully placed at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, are in stark contrast to the polished black granite of 'The Wall'.
"It's a bittersweet day to come," mused Peggy Menegakis, a visitor from Massachusetts, who reflected on those stopping by the memorial today.
"Some people's fathers who've they've never met. Never seen, just heard about. Their names are here, and it's the only place they can connect," she added.
Volunteers placed roses here early in the day.
Red for those killed in action, and yellow for the missing.
"It's a good thing. The people aren't forgetting," said Elmer Smith, who served in Vietnam twice--- first in 1966, then in 1968.
He came here to honor three fallen friends.
"Back then, I could always pick them out of a crowd," Smith recalls. "Yeah, their faces are burned in my mind. Pretty hard to forget them."
More than 58,000 names are etched in the memorial. Photographs, bouquets, and messages of love, line it's walkway.
"Just means a whole lot to me being able to be here today," says Mechelle Barton.
Barton considers herself fortunate. Her father, Cody Schlomer, a helicopter mechanic, survived the war, and is still alive today.
But she's thinking about other fathers who didn't come home.
"So many people take it for granted," Barton says. "They don't realize what (the veterans) sacrificed. For us to live in peace".
While the relationship between a father and his children is a special one, that bond is perhaps felt even more strongly on these memorial grounds.
Some remembering... others, like Jeni Sands, seeking answers.
"My father, my biological father had been killed in Vietnam," she says.
For Sands, who lives in Fairfax, finding information about her father has been a lifelong search.
She says her adoptive parents sat down with her when she was seven, and told her, her father had been shot down in Vietnam, likely in 1963.
"Until I have proven facts, there's always going to be that question," Sands says matter-of-factly.
Because of privacy rules, she hasn't been able to confirm anything.
She believes and hopes a man named Neil MacIver, of Takoma Park... one of twenty pilots shot down that year, is her father.
Sands says she sees a family resemblance in old photos, and is encouraged by the fact that MacIver is from the area.
But phone calls and web searches have proved frustrating.
"Every now and then, I get an extra piece of information. Most of the time it dead ends," Sands says.
"I just hope someday, sombody will come along and say I know that guy, and somehow the puzzle fits."
That, she says, would make this Father's Day, even more so, one to remember.