When you’re a military family, Veterans’ Day takes on a whole different meaning

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2013-07-12 11.21.47Soon

very soon

my West Point grad, my Army Ranger, my handsome, beloved son will go to a faraway place

Not for vacation

Or to get married – though this will happen soon enough

But somewhere distant that brings a sense of fear over me if I’m having one of those days.

And so this whole Veterans’ Day thing is much more meaningful to me than it was, let’s say ten years ago.

(She types embarrassingly).

Last Friday, my orange hair, freckle face olive shoot sang in the school choir for a local Veterans’ Day celebration.

2013-11-08 18.18.25That in and of itself, is notable since Ike will not be dropping a CD anytime soon though he jokes that he is the songbird of his gen- eration. Hearing him sing, “God Bless America” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic” (my personal favorite) caused me to grab the bag of tissues I brought expressly for that purpose.

My tears were mixed though because this year, another veteran in the family was missing. My father-in-law. For reasons we will probably never understand this side of heaven, he has been taken from us. Not by death but by a person. Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia contributed to the cause but the cruelty of it all is too painful to even share.

Grey-haired military people filled the community center. These folks still beam with pride when their song is played. It was not a time of  preference over which branch served – Army, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard, even Navy (inside Army joke), were honored equally. There was solidarity and appreciation. I was among the ranks of those who love the “Armed Forces Salute” although apparently many of Ike’s classmates noted that I spazzed out during the Army song. I tried to be as discreet as possible! I couldn’t help it!

Two proud chunksters

Two proud chunksters

But little did I know, I wasn’t the only one who got choked up during the per- formance.

A certain someone whose name I can’t mention also had to push back the tears. It’s hard to sing and cry. Thinking about his brother, re- membering his grandpa, watching the 93-year-old man sputtering out Taps on his trumpet maybe for the last time, it got to a certain little stoic olive shoot. For the record, he DID NOT cry, he just wanted to for a brief, oh so brief moment!

As an American, I find myself proud of how we honor our veterans. In Brazil, for example, they do not have such a holiday. They have Children’s Day, Dentist Day and Teacher Day but no Veterans’ Day. To serve in the military is a rarity and something not especially appreciated according to my reliable source, my borrowed Brazilian olive shoot. They are proud of their country but those in the armed forces do not receive any special recognition for their service. I thought all countries had their own Veterans’ Day.

Today I remember those in my family who are in the military, past and present. I remember our honored friend, Colonel Eric Kail who was my son’s mentor whether he knew it or not. We love and miss him. Thank you all, bless you all. Happy Veterans’ Day.

Here is Ike and others in the choir singing “God bless America.” It is the land that I love.

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An Open Letter to the Military

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To all those who served in the military,

I am sorry that I used to overlook Veteran’s Day.

I apologize for being annoyed when I didn’t get mail because November 11th is a federal holiday. It doesn’t bother me anymore. 

Or forgetting to fly our flag, it has been waving proudly on our porch since last night.
 
I wish I would have told more of you “thank you” a long time ago but I am now the mama of a Soldier and you deserved my appreciation before then. 
 
Now I see your Veteran’s hats and your license plates and my heart is beginning to understand.
 
I notice the bumper stickers of parents of military service people and I want to jump out of my mini-van and tell them I am learning what this means.
 
My life and this day will never be the same.
 
Thank you for your sacrifice to defend our freedom.
 
God bless you for being away from your family, friends and the comforts of  home.
 
For those birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, even just regular days when you are not surrounded by the people who love you, I am humbled whenever I consider what that must be like for you. 

Thank you for being able to serve our country whether you like the president or voted for him. I didn’t realize that until my own child put it into perspective. 
 
Thank you for going to places most of us would never want to live or visit. 
 
I confess that I might have still remained ignorant about all these things if my son hadn’t joined the Army.
 
You have done your job for your country and all the people in it. Including those completely support your endeavors and those who scoff at your service, those who would never have the courage to give everything up for a cause greater than themselves.
 
Until my own son made an oath to serve his country and I saw him in his uniform, 
 
I was naive.
But not anymore, and that is a good thing,
 
I just needed to tell you this from the bottom of my mama’s heart.
 
Thank you.