May 25th, 2009
09:49 AM ET

Dear President Obama #126: My memory wall

Reporter's Note: The President of the United States says he would like for Americans to write to him with advice on how to run the country. I’ve got the day off, so what the heck.

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Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

My mother and I were talking on the phone the other day, and she told me about something she saw near her home in Alabama. She was driving through a nearby town, and as she rounded a corner near the only traffic light, she saw a woman standing in the rain, pushing little white crosses and flags into the sod to create a makeshift memorial to our nation’s fallen troops. It did not seem to be any kind of organized effort, or the work of some official group; just the private respect of a private citizen for those who served her country in a time of war.

“I wish someone from the media had been there to take a picture,” she told me, and I had to agree for two reasons. One, because she is my mother and disagreeing with her has seldom worked out well. And two, because I often think such little acts of remembrance touch people more than the largest parades.

Above my desk at work I have a group of photographs tacked to the wall. They are pictures of some of our troops who died in Iraq; troops I featured in a series of documentaries I put together on the war. Some of the pictures are on photo paper; most of them are simply printed on copy paper from my computer. As the months have gone by since I aired those documentaries, the pictures have all curled at the edges, and grown dusty, and every few weeks I think that maybe I should finally take them down.

But they remain, and I’ve pretty much decided to leave them there until our nation’s work in Iraq is done and the rest of the troops are home. That is not a political statement about when, or where, or how we will leave that country or whether we ever should have gone; it’s just my own way of remembering these young Americans and their families and the sacrifice they all made to serve our country. Every day I see their faces and silently remember their names.

As memorials go, it’s not much; but it means something to me.

I hope your Memorial Day is filled with family, and faith, and the freedom our fellow Americans have died for; here and around the world.



Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Tammy, Berwick, LA

    Today was my last day at work (I start my dream job Wednesday). For the last two years, I have been a teacher at my friend's alma mater. He died four years ago from injuries sustained while fighting in Iraq. The last thing I did today was visit his memorial on campus. He was my hero when we were in junior high. It just seemed appropriate to acknowledge what he did as a soldier and person, to acknowledge what he means to me even now. This holiday has sucked since he died. Every year I say one day it'll be about remembering the cool stuff and not the loss of this amazing guy. Haven't gotten there yet. Thanks for remembering them all, though. Our administration didn't even recognize him today to our students in morning announcements before the moment of silence and pledge, didn't recognize any of our men and women who served. It's like they didn't matter at all. So I remembered on my own like many of us do and will until I'm too senile and forget. Mr. Foreman, you and your mom are right. It's the little memorials that matter most. I'm going to end it here because I'm becoming a blubbering mess once again.

    May 25, 2009 at 6:16 pm |
  2. Annie Kate

    In places in the South we still celebrate Memorial Day as Decoration Day – a day in which we go to the community cemeteries for a short remembrance service and to clean and decorate our veteran's graves – veterans from the most recent wars back to the Revolution and the French and Indian Wars. Its good to get with family and celebrate and remember the people who gave their all to build and maintain the fabric of our country.

    May 25, 2009 at 5:44 pm |
  3. DrFrann in CA

    I wonder if the need to oppress others is part of human nature.
    And I wonder if the desire to be free of oppression is also a part of who we are.

    Let freedom ring.

    To all those who fought to uplift and keep the spirit free...

    May 25, 2009 at 4:12 pm |
  4. KatchProFILMS

    (Thank you Mr. Stodden... you are a peach.)

    May 25, 2009 at 2:20 pm |
  5. KatchProFILMS

    My American Art.

    May 25, 2009 at 2:14 pm |
  6. KatchProFILMS

    I just cried (I mean heaved) when I read this beautiful and simple letter (via Mr. Foreman) to President Obama (AND to the First Lady... so important).

    When, a man... quite clearly (sincerely), simply and openly... says that he, "...truly love(s)..." another man - on ANY level - and gives his full name (in thanks), I believe... I truly believe... this world is slowly but surely turning around.

    (And to Mr. Foreman and his mom... thank you, of course... to your equally clear, brilliantly simple and beautiful ("home – made") tribute
    to our troops. So brilliantly American.)

    And, I miss my dad - a former Vet - who would, as well, have no problem expressing his love toward another man... in deep friendship and respect. And sometimes openly weep to do so. I weep for him, today. I weep for our troops.)

    Now... if we can do this all without war - that is what I am... my Art is about.

    May 25, 2009 at 2:12 pm |
  7. Kim


    Not to demean your point of view but we do remember those we lost in the tragedies of 9/11, on the date of that horrible incident. Just as we honor the men and women who lost their lives in Pearl Harbor on Dec 7th. No one has forgotten them.

    Memorial day is in honor of all American lives lost in Service during wartime. Not one specific group or uniform. From the American Revolution through Iraq and Afghanastan, this is their day. They earned it. Just as the Veteran's have earned their right to be recognized on Veteran's day.

    May 25, 2009 at 1:45 pm |
  8. Rachel

    Dear Commander-In-Chief, God bless you this Memorial Day, for the grace and respect you give others, for your steadfastness to get things right, and also the grace to admit when your wrong, The USA needs you, our troops need you, God bless and protect you and our troops, keep you both safe..and keep up the amazing work you are doing......

    May 25, 2009 at 12:23 pm |
  9. Billie

    I remember buying a paper poppy outside my village drugstore from a veteran to help remember all those who had fallen in Flanders Field...i didn't know what flanders field was but i knew it made this old man stand straighter when he spoke of it and he had a tear in his eye lest i, too, forget the scarfices of those who'd gone before us to protect our freedom...i wore that little crepe paper flower all day for that old man...i could feel his sacrifice in his plea and the hope that we would never forget...here's to all who have protected us and given of themselves for our freedom

    May 25, 2009 at 11:50 am |
  10. Karen

    Dear RLWellma, those 3000 souls didn't sign up knowing they might loose their lives. The fireman & police officers risked their lives but not all those souls laid down for our freedom. I still say a silent prayer for them, but today is for our soldiers.No disrespect for the 9/11 lives.

    May 25, 2009 at 11:36 am |
  11. rosemary

    This is a very beautiful letter, made me cry and remember my son who is still out there somewhere in Iraq. His name is CPL Zackery R Sanchez.. I pray every day for his safe return. Thank you for this beautiful letter to the President.

    May 25, 2009 at 11:22 am |
  12. Brenda

    Glad to see another Alabama boy has made good. I am also a TSU graduate. I live closer to DC than Montgomery these days. It concerns me that the media covers ever negative story around the globe but rarely do we hear the good news. Thanks for sharing. The space shuttle stories were the only news coverage that made me feel proud to be an American recently.

    May 25, 2009 at 11:21 am |
  13. Scott Stodden

    President Barack Obama;

    I truly love you so much for what your doing for the country, you have done so much in so little time and us Americans are proud of you. I hope you and First Lady Michelle and the kids enjoy your holiday today as you remember all the troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and also all the fallen hero's. Your truly doing an amazing job as our nations president and not enough thank you's in the world could express how I and many other people feel, so on this Memorial Day we salute President Obama, all the troops both men & women in Iraq and Afghanistan and also to all the fallen heroes who lost there life we salute and thank you as well, to all the families with fallen heros our hearts and condolences go out to you.

    Scott Stodden (Freeport, Il)

    May 25, 2009 at 11:04 am |
  14. Jim Gillett

    NK tests a nuclear weapon and our new presidents says " the international community needs to respond" that is not leadership, every terrorist in the world is watching, this is not good...

    May 25, 2009 at 10:59 am |
  15. RLWellman

    How about the over 3000 men, women, and children who were killed on 9/11?
    Everybody always talks about the men and women who lost their lives in Iraq defending our freedom, but it seems everyone forgets the reason we are there. The soldiers should be respected and honored for what they do and have done.
    But, if the others are casualties of war, they should also be remembered! Lest we forget.

    May 25, 2009 at 10:11 am |