I was reading Melanie D. Calvert’s Bulletin on MySpace when I remembered my days on active duty, not all twenty-six-plus years, but more than a few holidays I spent alone.
More than one special day, holiday, birthday, or event went by without me being home, both when I was young and single, and later after I married and had children of my own. After my children were born, my being away became harder for me, because I loved my children deeply and still do. I and my fellow military members gave up a lot in the name of freedom, some still are, but ya know, I’d do it all again. My service left me with something no one can every take from me … a deep sense of honor and pride, although the cost at times was high.
My mother took up a way to remember my absence by placing an empty plate at the table and reserving the chair for me … and though I’ve been retired for ten years, if I’m not home for a holiday, she’ll still drag out a plate for me. She also includes me in the dinner prayer. Thanks mom, I love you.
I can remember the military doing all it could for us to make the holidays special, but it wasn’t home and family. The mess sergeant always had turkey and dressing, little decorations and other things to remind us it was a time of remembering, but it usually depressed me a mite. For me, it would have been better NOT to remind me, except Thanksgiving is especially for REMEMBERING. Remembering all we have, our high standard of living, our great wealth (laugh if y’all want, but it’s true) as a nation, and how God has blessed each of us as individuals and together as a nation.
The times spent during holiday seasons overseas were rough, because no matter how many people are around you, your heart is with friends and family. I can still remember the joy of a single letter, the thrill of a small package filled with goodies, or the periodic phone call I was allowed to make using the MARS system (over). As you can tell, I served before the days of email and video camera capabilities, but I can assure you, most of our troops are saddened during this time, especially those assigned to Iraq or other “hot spots” around the world. Add a wife/husband and children back in the states, and it’s more depressing.
Yes, I know each man and woman serving volunteered, but that makes their situation no different than yours or mine. It takes a special person to serve our country and many men and women don’t have the high qualities demanded by our armed forces, or the desire. Only, that’s okay too, because Americans should have a choice to serve or not. After all, that’s the purpose of having an all volunteer force.
I hope you’re the type who prays before your Thanksgiving dinner and if you are, pray for our men and women serving our nation. If you’re not the praying type, take a few minutes and think how you would feel living and maybe dying in a country that’s not worth (in my opinion) the death of a single American. But, as a retired member of the military I know our Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Air Men, and Coast Guard members have absolutely NO say in our nation’s policy, they live to serve … and this old Sarge (E-8) salutes each and every one of you: “Well Done.”
May God Bless all of you during this Holiday Season (I’m off my soapbox).
Gary, a.k.a., “W.R. Benton”