Friday, January 9, 2009

The Box of Peace

Recently, TOP recovered a personal effect belonging to Congressional Medal of Honor winner, David F. Winder. The return of his dog tag to surviving family resurrected his memory and reminds us of how special and rare true heroes are. Ironically, David Winder's story is about peace; his sacrifice exceptional because of his convictions.

We live in a time when the word "hero" is casually used and associated with anyone above grade. This is also an era where words have the same worth as actions. However, David Winder's incredible bravery, under unusual circumstances, reminds us of the true meaning of who a hero really is. He was a man who spoke with the pure honesty of his actions. defines a hero as, "A man of distinguished courage, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities." Certainly, David lived up to this standard and then some: He was the old-fashion hero that movies should be made of, and books written about.

In America, the highest of award for the bravest heroes is the Congressional Medal of Honor. David's acts of courage epitomizes and is the quintessential example of this award.

(Left, previously unpublished reverse view of David's tag.) We invite you to get to know this exceptional human being; an inspiration, who offers hope for humanity--no matter which side of a war one is on. Understanding what David did, especially given his belief system, enables comprehension of the essence of the Congressional Medal of Honor award.

Here, we have included some of the stories generated by his dog tag's return. Please read all the accounts, as they compliment each other and result in the culmination of an incredible true story. As you read each cited article, you will become closer to David. Each piece, adds to the next; reporters and editors dug deeper with each story, and by the time of posting this blog entry, the combined facts, thoughts, interviews and feelings will leave you experiencing the awe, inspiration and tragedy of a powerful story comprising a real American hero and man of peace.

The dog tag worn by David at the moment of his heroic deeds traveled time; through fate, it fell into TOP's hands, and was returned to the other side of the world under our care. Once the effect was identified as belonging to a great hero, it was respectfully seated in black velvet, contrasted by a white satin backdrop, and placed in a protective white box, in preparation for its final leg escort home to David's family.

The trip team who recovered the tag was first notified of the magnitude of the find. Not long after, the story in the making was announced to the public in TOP's recent Newsletter.

Prior to tag's return, Arizona Daily Star reporter, Carol Ann Alaimo, outlined the "improbable chain of events" that led to "Army hero's dog tag found by a group here."

Vietnam veteran daughter, TOP trip participant and newspaper columnist Shelley Wigglesworth was a member of the team who came upon the tag during the final days of the momentous trip. After the news revelation, she wrote about a powerful highlight of her trip being a part of recovering David's personal effect.

Meanwhile, before accompanying the effect to Philadelphia, the small, simple box cardboard box, seemed to take on a life of its own; inside, was the object of great significance and priceless cargo.

The box that carried this man of peace's tag, has since become known around TOP as the "Peace Box."

The day the tag was returned equaled a Tour Of Peace condensed into several hours. It had all the components of the good TOP does. The ceremony and presentation was covered by the media and detailed afterward in several venues.

Upon arrival at the home of brother, Joseph Winder, the tag was removed from the simple cardboard peace box and escorted inside; so began the moving presentation of David F. Winder’s dog tag. Pictured is Joseph, between Vietnam veteran, TOP participant & supporter, Thomas Brinson, and Jess DeVaney. Laurence Kesterson, son of killed-in-action soldier, Charles Kesterson, took the photo. Larry revisited his father's footsteps in Vietnam with TOP.

Philadelphia Inquirer journalist, Kia Gregory, quietly & reverently, attended the ceremony and later shared with the public more details of this growing story, and how "Vietnam hero brother receives long-lost memento." As well, the photographic gallery from the piece tells more than a thousand words.

"What a Christmas gift!" Joe exclaimed, fighting back exasperated tears. Pictured left, is Joseph's brother's tag in his hand.

Joe indicated that he would eventually wear his brother's tag.

After the ceremony, on the return home, delayed flights gave pause for thought and reflection. While waiting in Denver, the empty box was produced from an overcoat--the box that once held David Winder’s tag brought incredible emotion in the airport. A decision was made to spare the "Peace Box"--it has been kept and preserved.

Checking voicemail, while awaiting boarding the final return leg home to Tucson, we had received a call from Jonathan D. Silver of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Jonathan would add more to David's poignant story in his article, "Dog tag of medic killed in Vietnam returned to his brother."

Upon returning home, with the personal effect safe in family hands, we received a call from David Winder's hometown of Mansfield, Ohio. Larry Phillips, Editor of the Mansfield News Journal, spoke with TOP at great length. Larry had been extensively researching David Winder, having learned about the tag find and return. Amazingly, one of his research finds was that nothing had been published about David F. Winder and his Congressional Medal of Honor award in David's hometown. Larry proclaimed, "In this Sunday's edition, we will 'right a great wrong'." Larry was true to his word: Next Sunday, David's hometown newspaper devoted the front page to David in the beautifully written story, "Hero's tags take long journey home." The article provides additional, previously unpublished pictures, and information not found in previous accounts.

One of the goals of TOP's Personal Effects Program is to ensure we never forget our gentle heroes. In the case of David F. Winder, the mission was accomplished. Perhaps some peace within has been reconciled in the hearts of David's loved ones. Peace is the rainbow that follows good works. While politicians & activists ironically fight over peace, Tours Of Peace Vietnam Veterans quietly sidesteps around that and simply does it.

From time to time, we peek inside the empty box, and marvel at the peace that lies inside. The box also symbolizes our TOP veterans and families who once held emotion inside and kept their War experience tightly within. Our programs offer an opportunity for release, healing & closure--peace within.

All bad things must come to an end: A metal tag that we once associated with war, is now a symbol of peace. The return of this dog tag gave birth to a new life of memories about David; as well, the dog tag once worn in war, is now worn by his brother, in peace.