Monday, May 28, 2012
Today for the majority of Americans is a day for family, friends, fun, bbq, sports, swimming.......the kickoff of the summer season. A paid holiday off of work. A relaxing day that lengthened your weekend.
To a small few of us, this day is so much more. This day is Memorial Day, a day to remember and reflect the service and sacrifices of our men and women who proudly wear the uniform of the armed forces of The United States of America. And, the small few of us, we are the families of these brave heroes who willingly put their life on the line in the name of freedom, democracy & the American way of life.
Fathers, sons, husbands, wives, mothers, daughters........proudly buttoning a freshly starched blouse, carefully pinning on medals, perfecting the fold of the beret on their head. And from basic training to deployments, there is a small army behind each of these warriors. Those of us who serve at home. Saying 'goodbye' to our soldier, Marine, airman, seaman, or guard member. Watching as our loved one boards a plane for the unknown of a hell half way around the world to defend our liberties.
The men and women of our armed forces serve proudly and selflessly. Missing the birth of a child, Christmases, birthdays, other holidays, special first moments of their child(ren) learning to walk or speak or ride a bicycle. Though they are gone, time does not stand still. The precious moments they miss can never be replaced. They serve in a sandbox with scorching heat while donning their 45 extra pounds of gear. They go days at a time with no contact with family, no running water to shower, no sleep because they're constantly on guard. They guard with their very life, the man or woman serving alongside of them.
Those of us here at home, must go on with our daily lives during these months of deployments that seem never-ending. We continue to work, maintain our homes, engage in life.....and over night become both mother and father to our small children.....all the while trying to support the member of our family currently missing from the dining table. It is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do in my life but I somehow always found a way, always found the drive & motivation to move forward while counting down the days to a tearful reunion.......only to again be given orders for yet another deployment on the horizon.
My older brother serves and is my best friend in the world. I had to send him to war the first time when I was still in high school. Through my brother, I was introduced to my former husband, who was my brother's battle buddy. From both my brother & my husbands' service, I met many men and women that became more than friends to me, they are my family.
I have experienced sending my men to war more times than I care to count......and lived through the heart break of realizing that my soldier or my Marine had come home but the war had come home with him. I remember falling asleep after a movie with my big brother only to be awaken a few hours later with him yelling out in his sleep and jerking violently. I watched as my husband paced around our home at night, double checking every door & window lock over and over, jumping at the slightest sound and immediately going off to investigate it, walking the floor as I held our newborn son in my arms watching my husband unable to recognize he did not have to remain on high alert at home. Of the few times I saw my Marine cry, the majority of them were when he would remember Dustin; a good friend of his who had saved my husband when he was first injured in duty, months later Dustin was killed by an IED and my husband still stateside recovering from his injury, had blamed himself for not being there to protect Dustin the way Dustin had protected him.
I know firsthand how it feels to watch CNN and hope the convoy that was attacked was not your spouse or brother. The pride I feel when I hear a patriotic song. The rage and hate I feel when I see a news story about Westboro Baptist Church in Arkansas picketing the funeral of another fallen service member. The tears that fill my eyes when I hear the sound of TAPS. The heartbreak that cuts so deep I can feel the throbbing pain as I explain again to my 4yr old son why he does not see his Daddy anymore. The emptiness that still overcomes me on certain dates throughout the year when I lay down at the end of the day and curl up to the pillow that has stayed on the other side of my bed for more than 2 years now knowing that is the closest I will ever come to again holding my husband. The fear that washes over me when my older brother calls to let me know he has received orders to re-deploy. The anxiety and pride that contradict each other spinning in my head as I watch my 4 year old son pull on his Daddy's combat boots and smile as he tells me, "Mommy I'll be a Marine just like Daddy was."
So many emotions overwhelm me on a day like today. I put on a smile and a brave face and I make it through the ceremonies, the parades, the speeches, the dinners to mark this solemn day. While you enjoy your family today, while you BBQ on the deck and fill up the pool for the season.......take a moment to say a prayer for the men and women who have served, are still serving and those yet to serve. Pray for the families of these warriors and the families of the fallen. Explain to your children the TRUE meaning of this holiday and the heart breaking truth behind this day of remembrance. If you know a service member or a military family, 'thank you' goes a long way.
To all of my men & women serving now and those who have served: Jason M., Royce M., Kenny B., Robert C., Aaron T., Ashley E., Becka B., Thomas K., Chris S., Kenny D., Dustin C., Bill H., Tim N., Leslie B., Alejandro V., Jason N., Sam S., Bill R., Bob L., and Joy L. : THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH FOR YOUR SACRIFICE AND THE SACRIFICES YOUR FAMILIES MAKE WHILE SERVING BEHIND YOU! YOU SELFLESSLY SERVE AND MAKE IT POSSIBLE FOR MY SON TO GROW UP IN A COUNTRY THAT OFFERS HIM ENDLESS OPPORTUNITIES AND LIMITS HIM BY NOTHING MORE THAN HIS IMAGINATION. THOSE SERVING NOW.......... STAY SAFE AND HURRY HOME. THE FALLEN HEROES......THOUGH WE CAN NEVER REPAY YOU FOR WHAT YOU GAVE, YOU WILL NOT EVER BE FORGOTTEN AND YOUR MEMORY SURVIVES IN THE HEARTS OF YOUR CHILDREN & FAMILIES.
Regardless of your political views or opinions of the wars, support the men and women who leave their families behind to defend yours. If you do not stand behind our troops.....feel free to stand in front of them.