Today is the last day of school for the kids around here. A fifth grade boy can barely hold all his folders as he runs down the street home from elementary school for the last time, but his desk is clean, and summer awaits. It’s Memorial Day weekend, and the official kick off for summer. But first, we pause to remember.
It was only a few weeks after my firstborn and only son had left for college to go to Ole Miss. Several states away was a big deal for a mom to deal with anyway, but then the unthinkable happened. Our country was attacked on our own soil. Nine-Eleven changed my world as a CNN screen unraveled the horrifying events of the morning. My girls were at school, so I drove back up to school. I gave them the choice (silly me–you know which one they chose) of staying at school hearing everything through the chaos of rumors and secondhand reports or watching with me at home so we could make sense together out of the incomprehensible—incidentally, we never have.
All the telephone lines were busy for hours, but very late that fateful Tuesday, I reached my son in Oxford, Mississippi. Never has his voice sounded so good to his mom. And at that moment, all I wanted was for all my chicks to be back home in the nest again. He spoke of guys that were worried sick after they had just enlisted and thought they had figured out a way to pay for college. They never dreamed they’d be swept away within days to go to war. He said all the guys were saying their education would probably have to wait, and they were fairly sure a mandatory draft would be forthcoming. He had already looked it up online, and at nineteen years of age, he told me in a worried voice that he would probably be one of the first to go. But it wasn’t so. Brave young men and women in record numbers stepped up once again to defend our country and protect our freedom.
As a mother, I can’t imagine that last tearful hug before putting your child on a plane to go to the mountains of Afghanistan or the deserts of Iraq, but my heart overflows with so many emotions at the thought–mostly of gratitude and great pain, and yet swelling with pride for a bravery and an honor these young people will now know. Huge sacrifices are made by each one that alter the rest of their lives in one way or another. To those men and women, and to their families, I am forever indebted. To Greg, I’m so grateful that you are here where I still can hug your neck from time to time.
As the war on terror increases in unpopularity, I worry about us repeating a horrible mistake. I remember a time, during the Vietnam War, when soldiers came home to anarchists who spat in their faces, and didn’t begin to understand that the only reason they could stand there and protest was because of those very men who fought for their right to do so. I remember the disgrace, the unpopularity of the war, the weariness, and the overwhelming opposition these poor soldiers faced, when they should have had a hero’s welcome home.
In December 2004, my family took a vacation to Florence, and as we were walking down a side street we were stopped with amazement and gratitude as we saw this sign on a door of a home. It was written just for Americans like me to know: Italy will never forget. And we cannot either.
Thank you, Bert Brady of Dallas for making sure our soldiers get a hero’s welcome home. Stop. Take a minute. Remember. Happy Memorial Day!