SALUTE TO THE FAMILIES OF VETERANS
As a country we teach our children to honor and respect our veterans and service men and women, now. It is fairly common to see someone shake a hand and say their thank you to a total stranger who is or has served. This was not true back in the Vietnam days. Their return was not met with cheers, thank you or any celebration. The nation thanked those vets by spitting on them or protesting the war as the troops arrived at any airport or train station. It was a horrid and embarrassing time in our history. Most of us have apologized and agonized over that era for many years. Some of us still do. Many of our friends and family were involved in that conflict and many didn't come home. We were not good citizens upon their return and we were not good people. For the thousandth time I would offer my own personal apology. I am so ashamed and so sorry any service person was ever treated with anything short of the highest respect and level of gratitude imaginable and I know that I was not among those who behaved in that way, but I am still human, still a citizen and therefore, share in the embarrassment and the humility for a country turning its back on you who served with honor and returned with scars. I am sorry. I am glad you returned to your families.
To the families of the Vietnam vets who have died much too early because of exposure to so many chemicals or other war injuries, my condolences and my gratitude; my condolences because though you had many years of good life after that conflict, in the end, it took your loved one. I am grateful for the freedom we enjoy because that conflict existed yet saddened by your loss. Every day.
As I look around my world today, I see families who visit the cemetery and lay wreaths, bouquets or mementos on the grave of their loved one. The loved one who gave all for their country. Those families are without a vital part of their daily lives because our country called upon them to hand over a child, husband, brother, sister, mother, father, wife or friend. The graves are a stark reminder of the price of freedom. Not one of those graves is holding a soul that expected to go to war and never return. Not one of them said good-bye to their family expecting never to see or touch them again. Yet, here they lie. Here is where the family will visit and pray for and talk to them until they join them again. Freedom is so much envied around the world and we have it. We have it because these men and women died. They left everything behind and left broken hearts all around this country so that we could continue to enjoy freedom. We don't have a dictator. We don't live in fear of speaking out against our government. We walk where and when we choose and we wave our flags with pride. These people gave their lives, they died for this.
Families are often left wondering where to use the grief. How to make a difference through their grief. How to go on without this person and not give in to despair. Why would freedom be a cause for death? How does a family, a mother, a father, a brother or sister, a child move forward after burying their serviceman/woman?
I simply don't know. I have not experienced this and refuse to judge anyone who has. Whatever helps them accept and move forward in their lives is good enough. Whatever that is because the ultimate sacrifice is not just the soldier who was buried, it's the family that wasn't.
As a mother of a Navy Vet, I can honestly tell you that I cannot imagine how all of these families get through this. I am hoping that the pride in their soldier helps. I am hoping that knowing that the lost love was doing what he/she believed in and loved, is enough. I am also hoping that everyone around them supports and strengthens them when they cannot go it alone.
I offer my deepest and most sincere condolences to every person who has buried a member of the armed forces. My heart aches for your loss and bursts with pride at the willingness and in fact, eagerness with which these young people give of themselves to protect us all and cloak us in freedom. It is nearly unfathomable to me to be in your shoes and I will not pretend to understand. I will only promise you that you and yours will be in my prayers always.
The ultimate sacrifice: giving your loved one back to God.
Dear Lord, I pray for strength, understanding and peace of heart for all who have given a loved one in battle or as an after effect of serving our nation. I pray for love to always be enough for the survivors of those who have been laid to rest in your tender care. Amen