I occasionally send an essay to a Heartwarmers, an ezine that has been online for a good many years. They don't pay the authors, and they never notify a writer when a submission is accepted. This morning, I received a nice e-mail message from a woman who is a nurse in Virginia and mother of a soldier serving in Iraq. She thanked for the things I'd written in the Heartwarmers essay for today. Needless to say, I was surprised.
Looking farther down the list waiting in my In-box, I spied the Heartwarmers address, opened it and was pleased to see my essay "More Than A Number" published. The editor had changed the title to "Say Thank You" Either way, this is another Veteran's Day offering. My patritotism seems to be on a high this year. I've pasted the essay below for those who might like to read it.
Heartwarmers has lots of feel-good kind of stories throughout the year. To sign up to receive the ezine, go to http://www.heartwarmers.com/
More Than A Number
By Nancy Julien Kopp
The men and women in our armed forces are not numbers in a newspaper article. Each one that deploys leaves behind parents, sisters and brothers, spouses and children, as well as myriad friends. They are not numbers; they are people. They laugh, they cry, they love, they endure hardships, they work hard. They are human beings with all the emotions you and I experience. They sweat, they like to eat three times a day or more, they enjoy fellowship with others, they pray, they shake with fear more often than we’ll ever know. They are warm, living beings—not numbers in a newspaper account.
How often do we read that another brigade has deployed? Numbers? No, not numbers, that brigade is made up of people who smile, cry, tell jokes, treasure the photos they carry of loved ones. They have headaches and stomachaches like you and me. They get slivers in their fingers and bruises on arms and legs. They’re no less vulnerable to physical ailments than you or I, but they face dangers we have never dreamed of.
I live near an army post, so I see uniformed soldiers everywhere I go. They stop at the grocery store on their way home from work just like teachers and attorneys and librarians do. They pick up their children at soccer fields as a civilian mom or dad does. We are all very much alike, except for one thing. These soldiers, male and female, have volunteered to serve, to protect our country at home and in foreign lands, to perhaps put their life in danger while doing so.
Have you ever thanked a soldier or marine or sailor? Maybe you’d feel uncomfortable walking up to a total stranger and saying, “Thanks for all you do for me and the rest of America every day.” What a great gift it would be if you could say that or something like it to a member of the armed forces. Think about it the next time you see an American in uniform.
A couple years ago, my husband and I were returning from a European trip. We were tired and anxious to get through customs when we landed in the USA. As we approached the passport checkpoint, a door opened and an entire unit of uniformed soldiers filed through. They were returning from Iraq, an even longer flight than we’d had. We stopped and watched these fatigued young men and women as they walked by us. Some nodded and smiled, others stared straight ahead. Some I could barely see for the tears that had filled my eyes. I wanted so badly to say Welcome Home to them, but the lump in my throat didn’t allow it. The pride that encompassed me at that moment cannot be described. I was every soldier’s mother for just an instant.
And what about the ones who didn’t return to walk through that airport door? The ones who came home in a body bag or a wooden coffin. My pride in them is every bit as strong along with a deep and abiding gratitude in what they gave for the rest of us. They sacrificed so that we can keep living in a free country. Yes, we Americans have many disagreements, but, even so, we are blessed in numerous ways.
Don’t wait for Veterans Day or Memorial Day, take time to say thank you to a military person. Say it in person or say it in your heart, but please say it.