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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Great (07/06/06)

TITLE: The Power of a Name
By Ann FitzHenry


As I landed at Washington Dulles International airport, my thoughts were filled with someone I had never met. When I first encountered his name scribbled in grandma’s family Bible, I was attracted like peanut butter to a jelly sandwich. Even though common sense advised otherwise, I knew I had to find him and confront the past. Now after a year of painstaking research, the moment had arrived. Preoccupied with preparations for the trip, I didn’t tell him I was coming.

Boarding the downtown Metrorail, I blended in with the other tourists. As the passengers chatted about the attractions on the National Mall, my stomach tightened as we drew closer to Union Station. How would I find him? All I knew was his name.

As the train doors opened, the sounds and smells of the city greeted my small town sensibilities. Like a single snowflake in a blizzard, I joined the bustling foot traffic for the last few steps of my journey. The task at hand seemed almost impossible in such a big and busy place. Taking a deep breath, I began my search. I couldn’t chicken out now. I had traveled 1100 miles just to see him. For the first few hours I was buoyed by my sense of adventure. Realizing my dream, I basked in the history of the nation’s capital. As my search continued, however, I began to give up hope. I had looked everywhere. I couldn’t find him. Disappointment and doubt plagued me as I studied the names listed on panel 49W. What if I was mistaken?

Struggling with thoughts of defeat, my heart stopped when he suddenly appeared. In a wave of emotion, I reached for him through the crowd. I could almost feel the outline of his face when I caressed the letters of his name. In the shadow of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, we met for the first time. The name lovingly written in grandma’s shaky hand was immortalized on The Wall.

When my journey began in the pages of the family Bible, I never thought He would lead me here. Trapped in the relentless pursuits of the material world, I had lost life’s meaning. As I searched for myself, I found Tom. A long-lost second cousin, Tom died before I was born. Killed at the age of 22, he gave the ultimate sacrifice in a faraway place named Binh Duong. Drafted by his country, he answered the call with all that he had. As I whispered “thank you” the words seemed hollow and inadequate for a real American hero.

Kneeling at the base of the monument, I started as a tiny hand brushed my sleeve. “Why are you crying?” a small voice asked. Searching for words, I clenched my fists to keep from drowning in my own tears. My mind, numb with emotion, lost the ability to speak. As I fought for an explanation, the child turned and ran away.

Overcome with grief, I looked to the heavens. Who else would know of great sacrifice and great love, but God? Surrounded by monuments dedicated to presidents and fallen American heroes, I began to grasp the meaning of John 3:16. Never before had His words been so clear. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 New International Version) In the depths of despair, God gave me hope for a blessed family reunion. My next meeting with Tom wouldn’t be on an ebony wall, but in God’s mansions in the sky. As I gave thanks for a life taken too soon, one search ended and a new one began. At that moment, I discovered the awesome power of a name-Jesus.

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This article has been read 1131 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Valora Otis07/13/06
Wow! As a reader I can tell that a lot of thought went into your story line. At first I thought you were searching for a buddy, or a long lost love. I was so wrong and delighted to read the twist in the story line. This is a tribute to our beloved fallen soldiers. Well done!
terri tiffany07/13/06
I second the wow! This was awesome. Great visuals and word usage. Perfect ending. I was there with her as she made her way to the wall. What are you doing in beginners? Great job.:)
Julia May07/13/06
Ditto on everything Valora and Terri said - this smells like a winner.
Zuanne Joubert07/14/06
I read a lot more than I write, but I seldom read every paragraph of every story to the very end. I just had to know what you were searching for, and was careful not to miss whatever that was. Your way of writing kept the story interesting - and the end was so powerful, I felt every emotion.
Edy T Johnson 07/14/06
This writing couldn't be more perfect. From the title and first couple lines, I was hooked. Moving through the paragraphs I found myself in tears (who wouldn't?), right there with you at The Wall. And, what a powerful conclusion you make with your spiritual link. This is Masterful writing.
Tom Phelps07/14/06
Carol Shaffron07/14/06
I agree this is powerful writing and grips your attention the whole way through. However, I dont' see how, "I didn’t tell him I was coming." fits the piece at all. And also, "How would I find him? All I knew was his name." does not make sense to me. But on the whole your writing is gripping!
Lynda Schultz 07/17/06
Yes, the "I didn't tell him I was coming" threw me in the light of what followed, but this is a moving tribute. I especially loved this picture: "Like a single snowflake in a blizzard". Well done.
Brenda Craig07/17/06
Wonderful, heart wrenching story. I love the expressive line
Like a single snowflake in a blizzard.

Yet, God sees and cares. Thank you for sharing!

Jan Ackerson 07/17/06
I agree that in your effort to give us a "twist", you may have unintentionally le us astray...but that doesn't take away from this gorgeously written tribute.
Rita Garcia07/17/06
Moving and heartfelt, perfect in every way!
Trina Courtenay07/17/06
Awesome job! I couldn't take my eyes off of the monitor!

Kimberly Mitchell07/17/06
It's amazing. What are you doing in the beginners? There's talented writer here judges. :)
Donna Haug07/17/06
you made me chuckle right away with your peanut putter and jelly analogy! Loved your twist. A little polishing and it's perfect. You definately need to move up.
william price07/17/06
Excellent job! I totally loved it from start to finish.
Edy T Johnson 07/18/06
Just a one word change, Ann, would satisfy the above comments. Instead of "I didn’t tell him I was coming," change to "I COULDN'T tell him I was coming."

As for not knowing "how" she would find him, when you go to The Wall, it helps if you know what year the person was in Vietnam. It's been over 10 years since I was there. I recall looking in a big book for one name from 1968, before knowing where on The Wall to find it.
Jen Davis07/18/06
A captivating and touching story. A favorite line: I could almost feel the outline of his face when I caressed the letters of his name." Very well done.
Phyllis Inniss07/19/06
This is really great. You are too good for "Beginners". Your writing is powerful, as has been said before.
Jan Ross07/19/06
Great story -- I thought at first you were searching for a birth father or natural relative. Wonderfully written. Agreed -- you don't belong in beginners! "Great" job! :)
Valerie Routhieaux07/20/06
Thank you, I'm not even wiping my tears away as I write my heartfelt thanks for a very worthy piece, but more than that, it is an expression of the heart you put on this page. I too am a Vietnam Veteran. I was shorebound, but I too was willing. I can't thank you enough for this well written work dedicated to the men who are great for the sacrifice they made. Please keep writing
Laurie Glass 07/20/06
Very well written. Your words painted pictures and you took me with you searching for these names. Great job.
Trina Courtenay07/21/06
Ann, congrats on placing 6th in the top 15 of beginners. This is a wonderful piece which I enjoyed very much reading.

Keep writing for the glory of HIM!