Monday, May 2, 2011

A Day at the Air and Space Museum

Wolfgang Samuel is a retired U.S. Air Force colonel and the author of several UPM titles. He lives in Fairfax Station, Virginia and makes regular appearances at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. What follows is a guest post and his experience and seems particularly fitting today.

I sign books three times a week at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum as well as the Steven F.  Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles. The two places are very different and draw different audiences. 

U-H is mostly military aircraft dominated by the breath taking SR-71 display and the Enola Gay. People who come to UH have to pay $15 for parking and are mostly a dedicated group of people who come there to see what few other museums have to offer. 

Downtown, at the NASM, the crowds are visitors from across the country and around the world stopping by as they try to cover all the nation's Mall has to offer. When it rains they come in for shelter and innundate the place; and when the sun shines they are trying to do all the museums on their brief visits to our Capital.

Much is said today about how little our young people know of their own history, their focus on the internet and cell phones. All that may be true, but there is a significant number who still read hardcover books and have a good grasp of our history. 

Numerous youngsters in their early teens stopped by my table yesterday to chat, to hold out their hands and thank me for serving our country (I take that as a thank you for all veterans, me just being the man on the spot). And a fair number of them buy my books on World War II subjects. WWII resonates with them, and many mention that someone in their family served in that war. They ask intelligent questions, then again shake my hand, before rejoing their group.

There are moments which can bring tears to my eyes. I've seen much war and don't cry easily (I think). A woman stopped and pointed to the sign which reads: Book Signing Today - Colonel Wolfgang Samuel, USAF (Ret.). She read it to her 13 year old son then said, 'That's him.' Pointing toward me. I got up to approach them, when she said to her son in a mother's stern voice, 'He is a veteran,' and with that the young boy whipped his cap off his head, stretched out his hand toward me and said, 'Thank you for your service to our country - Sir!' Then he put his cap back on his head, and his eyes reflecting the innocence of youth and his belief in what he had just said - not a formality, but a deeply held conviction. 

It is moments like that which make me feel that our country will be in good hands as we pass from the scene. Be proud of our country. 

                                              - Wolf Samuel

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