Thanks to my mother, our family learned early to honor those that serve. We attended Memorial Day, Independence Day and Veterans' Day parades in our town...
some years we sat and cheered from the curbs as we waved our American flags, while in other years we participated as Girl Scouts, pep squad members, cheerleaders. After the Vietnam War, honoring our service people was not particularly celebrated and, in many towns, the parades were discontinued because no one came to cheer the Veterans.
When we had children of our own, we took them to the parades... we cheered the vets, we saluted the flag. We waved at ships arriving home with fathers and sons on deck and mothers and wives smiling and crying on the pier.
We attended many wreath laying ceremonies at our war memorial on the grounds of our county court house in New York and cheered from the court house lawn on Main Street (really) as the Veterans' paraded by. The large court house square, the large military community and the community's patriotism were key factors in our choice of the town we now live in. Paying homage to those that serve is the least we can do... a few minutes from a whole day set aside to honor our Veterans.
I sometimes think that even without the influence of DH's career (he had finished his 25 years and started his second career by the time the oldest was entering high school), our patriotism and our respect for our service members might have influenced our sons' choices to serve in the military. We could not be any prouder of them.
This Veteran's Day we will not be able to attend the ceremonies and services in our new home town, because we'll be paying our deepest respects to the family of a fallen Hero, Tommy Byrd... one of Noah's comrades and close friends killed in an IED attack in October. This young man's wife thought it appropriate to bury him on Veteran's Day. Noah will fly cross country to render him all the honor and respect he deserves for his sacrifice.
I'm not sure I won't completely fall apart when I speak to the parents of this fallen Hero. Just the thought of his mother having to say a final good bye to her son makes me weep now. It's impossible not to know that it could just as easily have been me bidding farewell to one of my sons... to Noah. The horrible sadness that came over me the night we learned Noah was wounded now pokes at my heart, stabs at my eyes. It will be impossible not to feel guilty that my son is here and her's is not. Impossible to find words to comfort the young widow who spent the 10 months her husband was in Iraq making plans for the rest of their lives...
"We are so sorry" is insufficient to express how heavy my heart really is, how grateful I am for this man's service, how proud I am that he volunteered to protect his country and all that he cherished. I'll never be able to convey how much I appreciate this soldier's friendship with my son, how much my son loved being his friend and how much he misses him. What can I possibly say to this soldier's brother? It's true what they say -- there are no words yet invented that can convey what we feel for these parents, for this wife... for all the parents, all the wives, the brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, friends of our lost Heroes.
But on Veteran's Day, we each have the opportunity -- the obligation -- to thank all the Soldiers, the Marines, the Sailors, the Airmen, and the members of the Coast Guard who have served and are serving to protect us -- fought or just stood on the Wall.
To all those that raised their hand, swore the oath and said, "This we'll defend", from the bottom of our hearts, we thank you.
Bottom of my boots sure are gettin' worn
there's a lot of holes in this faded uniform
My hands are black with dirt and so is my face
I aint never been to hell
but it couldn't be any worse than this place.
Tell my wife don't worry 'cause I know what to do
it makes you feel better sometimes, but don't know if it's true.
I know if I die it's just my time to go
but I pray to God every day that I may get back home.
Well when you've seen what I've seen
things don't seem so bad
quit worrying 'bout what you aint got, thank God for what you have
'Cause I could be raising my family in this place
but I was born an American
by God's Amazing Grace.
From Luke Striklin's "American By God's Amazing Grace" copyright 2005
Copyright 2005. All rights reserved.