The opening ceremonies for the Annual Meeting of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) was, yet again, a humbling and evocative experience. GEN Gordon Sullivan and the leaders of AUSA produced another spectacular reminder of the importance of our Nation’s Army. This year’s theme, “America’s Army: Service to the Nation, Strength for the Future” could not be more appropriate.
Today’s ceremonies focused on incredible service our Army has rendered to this Nation during it’s rich history (Did you know we had an Army before we had a “United” States of America?), and it spoke to the challenges ahead for our service men and women as we transition from a war fighting army to a peacekeeping army. With stories of brave warriors returning from combat, some with wounds visible and others with injuries unseen, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a story shared with me just a few weeks ago. I’d like to share it with you today.
A Soldier that was finally on his way home after having fought nearly two tours of duty in Vietnam was delayed for his final flight home. At the first opportunity he called his parents from San Francisco.
“Mom and Dad, I’m coming home, but I’ve a favor to ask. I have a friend I’d like to bring home with me.
“Sure,” they replied, “We’d love to meet him.”
“There’s something you should know,” the son continued, “he was hurt pretty badly in the fight. He stepped on a land mind and lost an arm and a leg. He has nowhere else to go, and I want him to come live with us.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, son. Maybe we can help him find somewhere to live.”
“No, Mom and Dad, I want him to live with us.”
“Son,” said the father, “You don’t know what you’re asking. Someone with such a handicap could be a terrible burden on us. We have our own lives to live, and we can’t let something like this interfere with all of the plans we have for you. I think you should just come home and forget about this guy. He’ll find a way to live on his own.”
At that point, the son hung up the phone. He did not call back, and he did not board the plane.
A few days later, however, they received a call from the San Francisco police. They were told that their son had died after falling from a building. The police believed it was a suicide.
The grief-stricken parents flew to San Francisco and were taken to the city morgue to identify the body of their son.
They recognized him, but to their horror they also discovered something they didn’t know. Their beloved son had only one arm and one leg.
Monday Morning Perspective
“Any Nation that does not honor its heroes will not long endure.”– Abraham Lincoln
“When it comes to standing up for Veterans, we cannot be the Republicans and Democrats. We must be the Red, White, and Blue Party.”– Unknown
The fact remains that our nation’s veterans and their families face challenges- physical and mental injuries sustained during a decade of war; the transition of our military from a season of war to a (hopeful) season of peace, and the uphill climb to gainful employment following a military career in a challenging economy.
The uniform isn’t for everyone and a military life is no easy path. Yet, our service men and women have stood between us and those who would seek to do us harm for 237 years.
The true measure of any society is how it remembers and cares for those who have given some- or all- in her service. This isn’t a debt owed by a select few. It’s a debt owed by us all- All who partake in the freedoms protected by the blood, sweat, and tears of our military men and women and the Families who serve alongside them.
Showing appreciation for their service isn’t hard. Each of us is uniquely equipped to do so in our own way.
Perhaps you can treat an injured Soldier and lift up the spirits of that supporting spouse.
You might be able to comfort the child missing Daddy or Mommy on yet another deployment, or comfort a military family mourning their lost loved one on those lonely, dreaded holidays that bear so much happiness for everyone else.
You may be in a position to offer a veteran or military spouse a new career that will allow them to continue using the incredible skills they’ve attained while serving this country, or perhaps you can mentor them on the way to get that dream job in the future.
Perhaps you can volunteer some of your time or money (or both!) to a cause that provides a much-needed service that supports these brave men and women as they transition to a new career, a new location, and a new life.
The point is: It doesn’t matter how you get involved, so long as you do.
The “How” is much less important than the “Why”.
What would you tell your son or daughter if they called?
These service members are America’s son and daughters- and the phone is ringing. It’s for you.
Have a wonderful week.
© Crystal Dyer 2012. All rights reserved.