Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thank you Veterans

I had planned to share a totally different story today before I realized it is Veterans Day. I woke up thinking about the men and women who serve our country and make sacrifices everyday that the rest of us can’t even imagine. I woke up thinking how often we take our freedom for granted and don’t think for a minute about the soldiers and families affected by their years of service. Often their years of service affect their lives long after they have served.

I was married to a veteran for 18 years. Sam served in the Marine Corps in the early 70’s and was a Vietnam vet. I met Sam 15 years after his service in Vietnam and although he rarely spoke about his combat experience I knew those years were never far from his mind.

I knew one night as we drove home to West Virginia from Massachusetts after a visit to grandparents. Russell was just a baby and was seated in the car seat behind the driver’s seat of our little Toyota Tercell. It was the wee hours of the morning. I was sleeping. Sam was driving. We were on Interstate 81 somewhere in Pennsylvania. Russell had a propensity for projectile vomit at odd and random moments. I woke up as the car was swerving all over the road and Sam was screaming, “I’ve been hit! I’ve been hit!” He was holding on to the back of his head and vomit was streaming down his neck. Russell had awoken, thrown up and fallen right back to sleep. When Sam came to his senses and was able to pull over to the side of the road we had a big laugh about that one. Actually, that story has been repeated for over twenty years and still makes us laugh.
But just beneath the surface of the laughter there is the memory of the wounds suffered that can’t be seen. I knew those service years haunted Sam long after he left the Marine Corps.  I knew by his nightmares that woke me from deep sleep. I knew by look on his face when a patriotic song was played. I knew by the sheer bravery it took for him to bring his sons to the Vietnam Memorial in D.C. and attempt to share with them his experience. I watched him crumble before that wall and be swept up in the arms of other veterans, complete strangers to him who helped him heal a little bit that day. I knew and I said a little prayer each time I kissed the scars on his face.

It is my hope today that we all stop and give thanks to all the men and women who serve our country. It is my hope that we say a little prayer for them and for their families. It is my hope that we as a nation do whatever it takes to help our veterans heal the wounds of battle, those visible and those unseen.