There was a time - and I am so ashamed to say this - I thought men and women who chose to serve, who chose to leave their spouses, who chose to leave their children must not truly love them. I am in tears as I type such a thing. The very thought of that now ...
It is incredible how much a heart can change, how much a perspective can change. Being reminded of the way I used to see this life, of the way I used to perceive every aspect of a life that I had no knowledge of, humbles me beyond words. It brings my entire body inward. Makes me still.
I think it is this past perspective that allows for the littlest increase in patience, the greatest bit of understanding when I hear the same from strangers. I have been there. I have thought these same things. I have not understood in the exact way that so much of this country does not understand. Anytime I lose patience, anytime the sarcasm begins to creep out, that distant voice is put back in my head, in my heart. My voice. It brings me back.
I never ask anyone to support the war. If you ask me why I think we are there, I will tell you - if you will listen. I will not argue. I never think less of a person who sees no purpose in this war. I would never think that. But, to support or not support the war has nothing to do with whether you do or do not respect and understand what a veteran is.
Nearly every time the national anthem is played tears flow from my eyes - very slowly, very quietly. If C is deployed, my face will be splotchy and puffy and hideous by the time that wonderful anthem ends. That happens for so many of us who love or have loved a veteran. If you ever see, watch, we will not wipe our eyes, we will stand straight, focused on the crimson and blue and white, we will not dare remove our hand from our heart to pull out a tissue until the final chord silences. Our understanding of that anthem is different - it runs deeper.
We know men and women who have fought for it, who have lost limbs for it, who have shed blood for it. We know those who have died. We know their widows. We know their mothers, their fathers, their brothers and sisters. We have held their children. We have seen the folded flags. We have mourned, we have prayed, we have remembered.
We know what our men and women give in defense of every word of that anthem, every thread of the flag. We know the days they miss, the births, the funerals, the first steps, the illnesses, the bedtime stories, the wins, the losses. We know the heartache, the pride, the sadness. We know what it is to have a heart permanently split in two - to have such intense love for family coupled with the rarest love for country. We know how painful that love is for all of us who share it. We know.
I know how awkward it can be to approach someone who has served. I know how hard it can be to take that step. I know very often you cannot always tell who the veterans are. They do not want any recognition. That isn't why they do what they do, what they have done, what more will follow in their steps to do in the future.
They are men and women who do not ask - do not ask for anything.
We ask of them.
I will ask just one thing of you - the simplest thing. Respect the flag they fight for. When the Anthem plays, place your hand over your heart, stand straight, and face the flag. The heart beat you feel ... that is what they fight for. That is what they selflessly leave those who love them for. That is what they strap on pounds and pounds of armor and equipment and headgear for. What they go days without eating for, weeks without showering for, months without kissing their children goodnight for. You - your heartbeat is what they carry. Whether you ask them to or not. Carry theirs with you. Stand for those who have lost a leg, or both, who cannot stand beside you any longer, who have no arms left to salute, who have fought in the deserts, in the mountains, in the jungles, in every place that this country has asked them to go. Who crouch into the crevices of a mountain side, who have slept in fox holes, who slide as closely to the dirty, rocky ground as possible to remain undetected. Stand tall for them. Respect the flag - the flag that they always carry closest to their heart. That their families cling to. The flag that they revere, that in all things, is respected, is honored, is protected.
Honor the flag and you honor them.
On Veteran's Day and every day.
Thank you to all who have served and continue to do so. Thank you to those of you who have stood beside C on the battle field and in our homeland. I honor you.
You can also read last Veteran's Day Post: A Very Important Day
And be sure to enter the Promises Give Away!
"A soldier doesn't fight because he hates what is in front of him. A soldier fights because he loves what he left behind." - unknown
"God is our refuge and strength. He will protect us and make us strong" (ps 46:1). For those who will fly today, for those who are there now, and for those who will soon join the fight, Lord, shield them from all evil, strengthen their hearts, and bring them home safely.