I’m a Daddy’s girl. I always have been, and now with three grown kids, I still am. I am thankful for my dad and all he has done for me throughout my life. I am also proud of him because of what he has overcome. You see, my father is a veteran, and this weekend I am ever-so mindful of my father’s sacrifices. As I sat in my yard this afternoon laughing and talking with my kids, I recalled my own childhood. My father would often be gone for long periods of time. Weeks often turned into months. He couldn’t tell us where he was going or how long he would be gone. When Daddy was gone, he was gone. There was no such thing as the internet, emails, or text messages, so there was no communication except maybe the occasional letter, depending on where he was and what he was doing. When he was home, though, he was fully present in our lives. He attended my piano and vocal recitals, my sister’s band concerts, and my brother’s wrestling matches. He taught me how to drive a car, and how to milk a cow. He even took me to the ER covered in green paint because he was painting the living room for mom when I wrecked my bike. I was so blessed because he always came home. As a child, I didn’t always understand the importance of this, though.
I recall when my dad first left for Operation Desert Shield. I was in my early 20’s then, which is astounding because I’m pretty sure I’m no older than 21 now. It was late July/early August and it was to only be for a few weeks. Then the letters started arriving. He would be longer than expected. Weeks turned into months and the war started. I recall when the bombing happened near where he was. I left work to rush to my mom as we waited to hear about daddy’s whereabouts. The building he was in had been severely damaged. Again, I was blessed because he was alive and in one piece. But he wasn’t. He came home some months later with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Nightmares kept him from sleeping. He cried and sometimes would shake for no apparent reason. He had panic attacks. He walked away from his career. He even struggled with his faith in God for a while.
Often when we think of Memorial Day, we think of those who lost their lives. Many did make that ultimate sacrifice, leaving behind parents, spouses, and children to carry on despite their grief. Others left pieces of themselves, both literally and figuratively, wherever they served and came home changed. Dwight Eisenhower once said, “History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid.” This Memorial Day, I want you to think about all those you know who have, or are currently serving, in the military. These men and women are not weak or timid. They are the epitome of strength and courage. They know the risk they take and choose to take it anyway. Because of them, I am free to sit in my yard on a beautiful, sunny afternoon, laughing and talking with my kids. Because of them, I am free to go to church with my parents. Because of them, we are free. So, thank you to all have served or are serving for selflessly ensuring that our flag flies high and that future generations of Americans are free.