"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.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

To Love a Veteran

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!


  1. We moved to a quiet country street this past summer an hour outside of our hometown. The people are great, but we are the only ones who fly the Flag. Nearly 20 houses in our development and we're the only ones. Our post man thanked us for flying it.

    Someday, I hope to live in a neighborhood full of people who understand the way we honor the Flag.

  2. Beautifly said, as always.

    Here, in Australia,on November 11th, we have Rememberance Day.. I believe It's much like your Veterans Day.
    A day to remember those who have served, those who still serve, but most importantly, a day to remember and HONOR those who never made it home. At 11:00 on the 11th of the 11th every year, we stop what we are doing, bow our heads, AND REMEMBER.

    A few years back I was working in a large office supply store on Rememberance Day. An announcement came over the PA system 5 mins before 11am to let our customers know we would be stopping for a minutes silence. At 11:00, another announcement asked all those in the store to stop, just for a moment, and remember.
    As I was at the register, I stopped scanning through items to do this, the customer I was serving bowing her head and doing the same.
    I will NEVER FORGET the man waiting in line behind her. It seemed ONE MINUTE was too much to ask, and he very loudly expressed his disgust at being made to wait. The fact no-one would respond to his abuse, other than shushing him, only irritating him further.
    When the minutes silence was up, I finished serving my customer, and it was his turn.
    I remember him asking "what the hell is so important you can't do your job?".
    After I picking my jaw up from the floor, my response was this; "I will not apologise for asking you to sacrifice ONE MINUTE of your time, to show respect to the men who have and still do lay down their lives to protect your freedoms.
    Their sacrifice was what was asked of them and they gave it willingly, could you do the same?". He had the sense to look a little ashamed of himself and mumble an apology before leaving the store.
    I was furious at the time (and a little proud of myself for not completely loosing the plot and screaming at him like a banshee!), but thinking back, all I am is sad. Sad this man, this AUSTRALIAN, didn't understand the importance of rememberance, and of how many more, are just like him.

    Maybe it's because it's closer for me.

    May we ALWAYS honor them.


  3. As always, so well said. I cannot stand through the National Anthem anymore without tears in my eyes. My kids know what it means and why they should remove their hats, even if the man next to them in the stands does not. My 7 year old knows every word of it, I've made sure of that. You are so right, you can tell who the veterans, or the families are, during the playing of the Anthem. They stand straighter without moving. They sing or stand perfectly silent while gazing on our flag. I used to want to say something to the people who do not remove their caps, or talk during it, but now I choose to set the example of what to do. My children standing at attention sometimes speaks louder than words.

    Thank you for sharing this and please, thank your husband for his service!

  4. Lovely. And so true. I had those same thoughts when I became a military spouse. Everyone always says that it's something you can't ever understand until it's you, and as cliche as that is, it's true. When we first got married I wouldn't allow anything super patriotic in our house because I didn't want to be reminded of the sacrifices all the time. Now we fly the flag outside, have my husband's portrait in the office, and a "Proud Air Force Family" sign is on the mantle. It isn't just a lifestyle, it's like a religion. You immerse yourself in it, you believe in it, you would give up everything for it. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Amen.

    I love to go up to retired vets. They almost always have on those hats with pins (yes, my dad has one too). I love to ask them when they served, and then thank them for their service. The stories and smiles are priceless.


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