Last night we watched the annual Memorial Day Concert in Washington, DC. This outstanding tribute to our military and their families is something Ken and I try to watch every year. The one we saw last evening ranks as one of the very best. The music and the performers were top-notch as always, but the individual stories they chose to highlight were exeptionally well done. One was of two soldiers who had been in the Korean War while the other showed us another side of war, that of the widows left to grieve a husband who gave his life for his country. And yes, I did need to go get Kleenex more than once. I find these tributes extremely moving, and no matter how hard I try, I can't keep the tears from falling.
Ken and I talked about how fortunate we both were to have been raised in families where patritotism ranked high on the list of values our parents taught us. From the time we were very small children, we learned to love America and all she stands for. We learned to support and honor our miitary, whether actively serving or veterans or fallen heroes. Our schools re-enforced those same teachings. We both went to grade school during WWII and high school during the Korean Conflict, as it was termed. Not a war, only a conflict.
When these patriotic holidays come around, we know we will see countless songs, stories, essays, articles and poems that highlight the day. The writers who have shared their words commemorating holdiays like Memorial Day write with emotion and even passion, so there are some excellent pieces that have been published. Newspapers often feature a story relating to Memorial Day. Take time to read them. They'll do your heart good.
Last year, an essay of mine was published close to Veteran's Day that urged people to remember that the military men and women are more than a number. They are real people like you and me. I shared the essay here at the blog. For those who may have missed it, you can read it today. It's one I'm proud of, one I wrote from the heart. Take time in the day's activities to pay tribute to the military who represent all of us around the world in conflict after conflict. And remember families who wait at home, praying for their safe.return.
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.