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Since my plans were foiled, I am ruminating on the fact we just had Memorial Day. Living here in the shadow of the home of the “Screaming Eagles”, the Army is so entrenched in our daily lives that we hardly notice it anymore. A large percentage of my students at school are military dependents. Many co-workers are military spouses. My in laws are retired military, and my husband (former military himself) works on the post. It permeates the entire city, and we embrace it. We were even in the running for “Most Patriotic City in the US” a few years ago.
Yet the constant ebb and flow of soldiers in and out of the post and the daily lives of their families goes largely unnoticed by the general public. Yes there are the news stories that “such and such division, such and such infantry” had a coming home ceremony where families were reunited, babies were kissed, and happy photos are on the front page of the paper. But is it all lip service?
Do we fully appreciate the dedication that these brave soldiers and their families display every day? When a friend confides that they have gotten word of another deployment (the 8th of their marriage and career), do we think of more than the inconvenience she will face? Do we think of more than the missed birthdays, holidays, special parenting moments? I doubt we fully appreciate the fact that every moment of every day they are in silent prayer, that they are steeling themselves and using all their reserves to maintain composure while knowing that their loved one is in danger. A dear sweet friend is about to see her only son leave for his first deployment. Her firstborn, he is a fine young man and is at the point in life where she can finally see all her hard parenting work coming to fruition. He is well trained and prepared to serve. He calmly told his parents where and how he wants to be laid to rest if he should die. As familiar as deployments are among my circle, I had still never considered that they must have that conversation. They must address what should be done if they don’t come home. She will pray every second he is away, never ceasing and never breathing deeply- knowing that her 19 year old child has willingly and gratefully planned his own funeral because he is willing to die for what he believes in.
It is this fact that has made me reconsider Memorial Day. It’s not about hot dogs and trips to the lake, or even putting up the flag on your porch.
It’s about the ones who never made it home, the ones who are prepared to not make it home, and the ones left here- holding it all together. It shouldn’t be lip service.
May their service never be forgotten.