A memorial mission

"It's great you came for the anniversary," Zwit tells Daniels.

She says, "What anniversary?"

She doesn't realize that April 15, 2011, is the 40th anniversary of Ward's death. She's here only because it's grandparents day at her grandkids' school. Her daughter in nearby Maryland has invited her to join them on a drive to D.C. It is her first visit to the wall.

"It was," she'll say afterward, "a divine appointment."

A month later, in May 2011, the Ward family held a reunion.

Among other events, they gathered to watch a video Jim Zwit sent of the slim, young guy they called Spooky.

For years, Ward's family didn't talk about his death, though year after year, on the anniversary, his mother placed a photo of him, in uniform, in the local paper.

They knew little about how Ward died, nothing about his comrades. They are grateful for what Zwit has told them, especially for the reassurance that, unlike so many other men, he went fast and didn't suffer.

"It feels good to know the full story," said his sister, Ethel Carter. "Maybe that's why I couldn't talk about it. I didn't know what I was talking about. Now I know."

When they played the video at the reunion, several people whooped in delight.

Look. Spooky, in Vietnam, down by some water, in his green uniform. Smiling, just like he did the day he left for the airport and said, "I'll see you all."

But then someone noticed Ward's mom. The video had upset her.

They cut it off.

Later, several of William Ward's siblings made plans to go to the wall this Memorial Day, for the first time in many years, for which they thank Jim Zwit.

Remembering is a mixed blessing.

Some people like to remember what's difficult as a way to preserve life or to understand it. Others try to forget.

Jim Zwit has wanted the knowledge he has shared with the families of eight dead soldiers to give them a choice about what and how they remember.

And he has, no doubt, wanted something for himself, too, something to do with his own memories, even if he's not sure what.


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