30 May 2010

America the Cowardly, America the Ungrateful? I Sure Hope Not.

I understand that it can be difficult for civilian families to relate to military folks and the military lifestyle. It’s hard to really grasp the emotional highs and lows, and the toll that military life takes on a family unless you’ve lived it. Through no fault of their own, many civilians just don’t get it, and how could they?

Until I lived through my husband’s weeks of field training exercises, I didn’t understand what it was like to be a temporary single mom, with him popping in and out of home life like a frequent visitor and having to get used to him being around again.

Until I lived through his deployment to Iraq in 2003, I could have never comprehended the heartache of saying goodbye to him in our doorway at 0300, closing the door behind him, and thinking to myself, “That might have been the last time I’ll ever see him. That just might have been it. Do you know how hard it was not to fling open the door and run after him? I had two small children sound asleep in their bedroom, and their Mom sat up on the couch crying til dawn, begging the angels to keep my beloved safe. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do next. Turned out, it was make breakfast.

Normal stuff of normal life fills the days of loved ones waiting at home for their soldiers who are “in theater” – that means in the war zone, in harm’s way, in danger. Not at home with you. Yet every moment there lingers a fear in your heart, and a small lump in your throat.

Every day the prayer is the same, “Please Father, keep him safe today and bring him back home to me.” Every day you smile in front of your children whether you feel like smiling or not. Whether you’re worried or lonely or tired, you do your best to keep things “normal” for your kids. And you remember that whatever you’re going through is peanuts compared to what your soldier is enduring.

So while there are many things I don’t expect the civilian world to understand, I do expect them to REMEMBER the sacrifices made by our uniformed heroes, the ones who go to the worst places on earth and do the most difficult and unpleasant jobs in order to protect us back here at home. Most of them are like my husband, in that they don’t want public applause or thanks and they don’t really need medals. They truly appreciate the person who shakes their hand, looks them in the eye, and says, “Thank you for your service. I’m glad you’re home safe and sound.”

They truly appreciate the people who look after their families while they are away. The guy who mows the lawn for a soldier’s wife; the woman who helps out with childcare once in a while or brings dinner over; the person in the housing office who takes pity and makes sure a repair gets done pronto. And in my case, the guy in the Rear Detachment (the soldiers in the unit who stay behind to help coordinate things) who comes over to this panic-stricken wife’s house to seek out and destroy the red wasp flying around in the kitchen. Really. I was *this close* to needing a tranquilizer.

It’s not hard to remember. It’s not hard to appreciate the sacrifices made for our freedom. This nation could start with one simple thing this Memorial Day, in this soldier’s wife’s humble opinion: The Mojave Memorial Cross.

What happened to the Home of the Brave? Lately it seems we’ve become the Land of the Cowardly, the Land of the Ungrateful. I join with the countless others who are incensed over the theft of the cross and the desecration of this memorial to our heroes. When they find the lowlife who stole the cross, I hope they send him to stand a checkpoint in Iraq or Afghanistan for at least 18 months. I hope they assign him to the Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit (Bomb Squad) so he can use his quivering fingers to disarm (hopefully) an enemy specialty before it blows him to smithereens.

And while they’re at it, they should “recruit” the guy who started the stupid lawsuit in the first place. A man who lives in Oregon decided it offended him to have a simple, plain, unadorned white cross standing on a rock in the middle of the Mojave Desert as a tribute to fallen soldiers of WWI. The memorial was placed there over 70 years ago by friends and comrades to remember their fallen buddies, and suddenly, some jerk in Oregon decides the cross cannot be tolerated any longer. And this nation kowtows to this guy’s selfish vendetta, and a lawsuit nearly triumphs against the memorial, against the fallen heroes, in favor of a guy whose life wasn’t harmed one iota by that quiet cross standing in the desert a thousand miles away from him.

Now that the original cross has been stolen, the court has taken another step toward forgetting the heroes and favoring the cowards by claiming that the Supreme Court decision to let the cross stand only applies to the original cross and not to any replica they may create. In other words, they can’t put up a replacement cross. That is America the Ungrateful, America the Cowardly.

My husband will spend this Memorial Day quietly remembering the soldier whose body he escorted home to his family in Georgia the year we were married, the one who died in a freak accident during a typical field exercise. He knew it could have just as easily been him. So did I.

He’ll remember the soldiers who died in Iraq under his command, as well as the ones who were permanently injured. He’ll remember the nearly two dozen friends he’s lost; the ones who did not come home alive. Perhaps he’ll wonder again why he did come home alive.

I’ll spend Memorial Day thinking of all of them, and thanking God for their sacrifice and praying for their eternal rest. I’ll thank God again, for the millionth time that my beloved came back to me safe and sound. And I’ll pray for every hero currently in theater and beg Heaven’s angels to stand watch and keep them safe.

And I’ll remember my friend, Karin, who became a widow at age 34 with two little girls, and I’ll remember how many, many families have lost the one they loved. I hope they know, this day, that their hero is not forgotten.

What kind of nation tears down memorials put up by its heroes, in remembrance of its heroes? What kind of nation says honoring its fallen heroes is a violation of freedom? Where would this nation be without those heroes and their protection of our freedoms?

I truly hope we are not becoming America the Ungrateful, America the Cowardly. My husband will never toot his own horn or draw attention to the sacrifices he’s made and the sadness and loss he’s endured as a soldier for his country, but I will. I’ll do it for him and every other service member who deserves to be remembered by a nation that is hopefully not too cowardly or ungrateful to stand up and call legal B.S. what it is.

Put that cross back in its place. Anyone who’s offended by it can darn well look the other way and thank God they have the freedom to walk away and maybe go find something actually worth being offended by, like the ingratitude and selfishness of people who want to insult the memory of those who died for them.

We need some of the Brave here at home, too, and I hope there are more than a few left.

Thank you, to every man and woman who has fought and is currently fighting for our homeland. Thank you for doing everything within your power to make sure I and my children can sleep safely tonight. I love and appreciate you and I pray God’s blessing on you and your families. Godspeed, and come home soon.

Thank you, my darling, for being who you are -- a quietly brave and selfless hero. I love you so much, and I’m so honored to be your wife.

A blessed and solemn Memorial Day to all.  May God continue to bless the United States of America.


Sarah Oldham said...

These very same folks who want the removal of the Holy things that offend them are the very same who ask those of us offended by the display of sex etc. on the TV and in advertising to "just turn your head; turn the channel if you don't like it." Well, kudos. Turn your head if the Cross offends you.

Thank your husband (and, my thanks to you for sticking by his side) for his service!

Anonymous said...

"What kind of nation tears down memorials put up by its heroes, in remembrance of its heroes?"

A Nation that will not survive much longer, a nation in it's downfall. What a disgrace.

The courts in this country are a disgrace as well.

I thank you and husband for your service to our country. You're a great mom and wife. And I thank my father and my brother for their service as well.

I really enjoy reading your articles, thanks again, my friend.


Roxane B. Salonen said...

This is a very nice tribute and a thought-provoking essay. From a civilian mother to a military one, thanks for all your sacrifices!

Michelle said...

Good one. I'm right there with you.


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