When Knox Museum Executive Director Tobin Malone told Wreaths Across America the story of this amazing and selfless woman's efforts, you responded with thanks, praise, and respect.
We shared the story of her efforts to connect one Vietnam veteran with another who had suffered years of anguish not knowing what had happened to his friend. We had to know more about what motivated her to volunteer, and soon connected with military Mom Cheryl Grass.
"I had seen a post on FB that this was coming up and I thought this is something I needed to do," explains Grass. "It just kind of hit me that way, that I have to do this and I don't volunteer for things very often."
She may not volunteer very often but her appreciation for and understanding of military service motivated her to volunteer for the Moving Wall Vietnam Veterans Memorial visiting Thomaston, Maine. Both of her sons joined the Army in 2001 and one still serves. Specialist Joshua Grass completed his service in 2005, and Staff Sergeant Wesley Spaulding is at Ft. Lewis working on a twenty-year career. Both of Cheryl's sons married women who also served in the U.S. Army.
It was opening day for the exhibit and Cheryl was assigned to do name lookups for people coming to the Wall. She said a veteran who was limping came into the tent and she asked him if there was a name she could look up for him.
"He started crying and said he was almost afraid to then explained it was his best friend in the Army and they were stationed together working as Military Police," recalled Cheryl. "He told me that he woke up in the morning and his friend was gone and he could never get answers as to what happened to his friend."
The man was overcome by a sense of relief to learn his buddy's name was not on the Wall according to Cheryl but he still had no answers, and that's when she kicked into full search mode. First, she checked the Social Security Administration for names and came up empty and then someone said, "Google it."
"Two names came up and they both had phone numbers," said Cheryl. "I was thinking to myself this is too easy; it's not possible."
While the veteran was distracted and talking with other volunteers in the tent Cheryl grabbed her cell phone.
"I tried the first number and got a busy signal, so I decided to try the second number, and a gentleman answered. I told him who I was, and where I was, and asked him if he was in Vietnam and he said yes. I asked him if he worked a night shift as a military police officer and he said yes I did. Then he asked me what this was about, and I asked him if he remembered his buddy, and he did."
Cheryl tapped the veteran on the shoulder and handed him her cell phone and said, "Here, someone wants to talk to you."
"He just looked at me and said no, and started to cry as he spoke with his buddy. They cried and talked a lot," recalls Cheryl. "They shared their contact information, and when they were done, the veteran cried a lot again."
Cheryl says she didn't think about what she was doing at the time but when she started getting calls and comments on Facebook about her assistance it started to sink in with her why she felt a calling to volunteer for The Moving Wall exhibit.
"I like doing things for people, and I understand I changed that man's life that day," Cheryl said. "His buddy is not too far away in Connecticut, and I hope they stay in touch. They have a lot to talk about; it's been more than forty years."
Wreaths Across America extends its gratitude to volunteers like Cheryl Grass, who make connections happen for our military heroes.