This is my favorite photo of my “Pop” in the Army. He was stationed in Japan and couldn’t be home at Christmas with his family. In this picture, you see Grandpa holding up his Army photo. He is proudly including his son in the present opening and merriment of the day, even though he is half a world away.
Today’s post is what I call a “no-brainer.” Here in the US it’s Veteran’s Day. On the 11th day of the 11th month, at the 11th hour, it is our tradition to stop in our tracks, take a moment out of our daily lives and to use that moment giving thanks to the sacrifices of our protectors.
For better or for worse,we are the citizen army who serves the world. I am in awe of all those who step forward and say yes to this call. I admit to my own selfish Mom heart’s reaction to the events of 9/11. Growing up, I had older cousins and uncles and brother-in-laws to be who were serving in Vietnam. As a child I lived in constant fear of nuclear holocausts and mushroom clouds. But war as a state of living was not anything beyond a night terror.
It wasn’t real. It didn’t touch me.
When 9/11 happened, people from around the world were shocked and left reeling. Our parish held an emergency Mass to pray for peace the next day. It seems the spontaneous rainbow so many of us had seen the morning before wasn’t enough. It sprung from a rain-less sky, to assure us of providence, but we were so busy looking to our own patches of heaven for the next plane to drop, we didn’t notice.
At Mass on the morning of the 12th, I found myself bawling in public. Quite selfishly I will admit. All I could see before me were children who I loved, in grades K-8, and I knew from the depths of my sinking heart that the events we were living would cause many of them to say yes to the call to be soldiers, and sailors, warriors…people who were real, who I loved, who could be hurt or worse.
Today, I get it. Then, I didn’t.
I am still worried for the ones who have volunteered. But I know that their career is something they have no desire to say no to. They are truly called. They are made stronger by it, they are broken because of it, and they are completely remade too. Today’s world is not held captive by a violent threat shown in clips on the nightly news in black and white. It is all nearer than that. And somehow, I am less afraid knowing that so many of the children I have been a child with myself, the children who I room-mothered, the children of my family who grew up to be my ancestors all grew and still grow up to be so brave on my behalf.
It’s an admirable, amazing and incomprehensible thing that these people who I know and love step forward to do. They are not faceless characters in nighttime dreams, they are real, and my awe of them is real too.
Take a moment today to write about the Veterans in your life, your family, buried quietly alongside your relatives or perhaps lying unclaimed and lost into eternity on another land’s soil, or back at home in a world they could no-longer feel like they were a part of. Write their story, honor them as persons–not memories or dreams–and do, above all, thank a Vet today ❤