Last night I dreamed I left this earth. I was met at the gates of Heaven by a beautiful angel. “Welcome,” she said. “Come on in. You’re in Heaven now. You can have anything you want. What would you like?” So thrilled I could barely speak, I replied, “First, I want to see the one who died for me.” “That will take a while,” she said, “but no problem, follow me.” I assumed there were lots of people waiting to see him, but I didn’t care. I was so excited.
I followed her to the end of a lovely street. Before me was a sight that took my breath. There on rolling green hills as far as I could see were men and women standing side by side. They were soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and other patriots who had died in battle. The first person on my left was Tommy Sandefur, my brother-in-law and high school friend who was killed while flying his helicopter gun ship in Vietnam. “Hey Fly Boy,” he said as he hugged me, “good to see you.” Next was Jimmy Cravens, my father’s cousin who died at age 22 while piloting his fighter plane in Italy in WW II. “Hey Punk,” he laughed, calling me by my childhood nickname, “you grew up!” Next was Chuck Evans, my house-mate and friend from Vietnam who was killed flying a Cobra gun ship. Then there were old friends from the 325 of the 82d Airborne Division and the 501st of the 101st Airborne Division. Officer Candidate School classmates, flight school classmates and my boys from D Troop, the unit I commanded in Vietnam, followed.
Lining both sides of the pathway men and women stood in the uniforms of their time as they saluted, waved and spoke their greetings. There were the new ones from Afghanistan and Iraq, then those from the Gulf War. More than 58,000 from the Vietnam era were next. It takes a lot of ground for 58,000 men and women to stand side by side. The boys from Korea followed, many wearing ice encrusted field jackets reflecting the bitter cold of those winters of the Korean peninsula in the early 1950s. Heroes of World War II crowded the fields waving and yelling to me. “Airborne! Airborne! Hey Ranger! Hello soldier!” It seemed I knew them all. Now it was the doughboys of WW I in their muddy clothing and strange flat helmets. “Hey, soldier. Welcome, we’ve been looking for you.” There were cavalrymen with long mustaches and wide hats holding their horses’ reins, nodding and grinning. Then there were thousands upon thousands of young men, some in blue, some in gray. They all stood together and I could see they loved each other in a special way. On through time we went greeted by those from every war and skirmish that stood to establish and maintain our great country’s freedom. At last there were the tri-cornered hats, deerskins and muskets and those special people who gave our country its beginning.
The experience was overwhelming and I was bursting with pride and gratitude at being able to greet each of these hundreds of thousands who had died giving and protecting our freedom. I turned to the angel. “This has been wonderful. I could not have imagined anything so thrilling. But now, please, may I see the one who died for me? I so want to see Jesus. “My dear,” she replied, “you just did.”
I awoke and lay still for a long period reliving the precious experience. I arose with renewed faith in life and those who give it.
Ray Kenneth Clark