In both Denver and St. Paul, I interviewed dozens of people on dozens of topics. I'm going to try to post some profiles over the next few days. This one is from St. Paul.
I met Bob at the "An American Carol" reception in St. Paul last week. Today of all days, I am so grateful to have met him. He was walking alone, an old man in a navy cap. Some men, like John McCain, carry that air of veteran with them under all circumstances. You can sense the warrior inside, you can feel them at attention deep down. Bob had that. He was immediately interested in talking with me, no hesitation. I like to believe he sensed a veteran in me, too.
Bob was at the event with Families United, a 501 group comprised of Blue and Gold star families. They came to town to work as volunteers at the "An American Carol" premier and to demonstrate in support of our troops and their mission overseas. Bob's wife, Shirley, was working at the door, handing out badges for the movie screening.
We chatted a bit about the election. Bob, a 1968 Reagan delegate, supports John McCain but was first a Fred man. He said Fred just didn't "have the fire" though. He added he didn't care for Mike Huckabee, and that, truth be told, he'd just as soon have George W. Bush for another four years. Bush stood up for America, and never backed down. Bob told me that "we gotta fight these terrorists," and said he believes in John McCain and his ability to do just that.
We made small talk about the USO show, Lee Greenwood, and the movie we were there to see. He was very interested in the idea of a Hollywood movie that takes shots at liberals. So was I (and we were NOT disappointed.)
I asked Bob about the hat he was wearing. It was a navy cap; USS La Salle ... but not Bob's ship. The La Salle was where his son Ronald served before taking a transfer to the Pentagon to be closer to family ... safer. On September 11th, 2001, Ronald was killed in the terrorist attack on the Pentagon. He was 37 years old.
Ronald J. Hemenway was one of Bob's seven children. He was a Naval electronics technician. Ronald was married, and left behind a 3-year old daughter and 1-year old son. His remains were never recovered, but a headstone was placed for him at Arlington cemetery. The Hemenway family flies a flag in the front yard in memorial.
Bob is so very proud of his son. He put his hand over his heart while he spoke of him, perhaps subconsciously. During our conversation he repeatedly reached up and touched his cap; his son's memory. He told me that wherever they go, he and his wife tell people about Ronald. They want people to know him, to remember him. They want us to know he was proud and strong. That he was good, that he was a warrior. They want us to remember he died serving the nation he loved.
I soon met Shirley, too. Bob insisted I meet her. He introduced us like he and I were old friends. "He's interested in our boy" he told her. Shirley replied with a resolute face, "I'm a Gold Star Mom." She said she was in town for Ronald and our troops. She is very proud of Families United and their mission.
Bob and Shirley Hemenway came to St. Paul for many reasons. In part to support John McCain. In part to support Families United and our nation's mission abroad. In part for fellowship with people who feel as they do.
But the biggest reason they were there was their son, Ronald. And you know something, that's kind of why we all were there. Never forget Ronald Hemenway, or his family and friends. He never forgot you.
Gold Star Family, Bob and Shirley Hemenway