It’s you dear soldier….
It is you dear soldier and you dear soldier’s family that I am so very thankful for today. You have given everything that I might live my life the way I desire to live. You have given everything that I might be free.
I am humbled as I consider what a price has been paid. Families sacrifice the thing I most long for -family time. How can I ever express what I truly feel. My heart is heavy with realization that I have been given the greatest gift ever. I have had many in my family serve our country and some have even given their lives. Every time I think on these things I am overcome with thanksgiving.
And men like Paul Tibbets who continued to carry his sacrifice throughout the rest of his life. (If you haven’t heard of this book I really recommend you read it –Duty) We have so much freedom in our lives that we often take for granted. We MUST remember. If we don’t we risk losing everything that we hold dear.
Only through remembering and holding it dear can we really live a life worthy of the sacrifice that has been paid.
So often the families of these brave men and women get overlooked. They too make a sacrifice. They too pay a price so dear. My uncle gave his life in the Vietnam war. His family, my aunt who was pregnant with their second child, a son and their little girl had to learn to live without him as a husband and father. (By God’s grace a wonderful man came to love them and care for them, but many are not so blessed.) His mother, father, sisters and friends all sacrificed a part of themselves to this country. I share this story my aunt wrote, with permission, to help you understand what those left behind have sacrificed.
A Giant Flag…The Biggest Flag
I wrote this essay in March 1977
By Tina Jelich Frost
It was almost time for the Rosary. Everyone took a last sip of his beer or drink and my Mother asked me for the hundredth time if I didn’t want to “take something” to help me. I told her I was fine. My Father-in-law helped me with my coat and someone said I should wear Kathy’s, it would at least button over my tummy. ‘I should take care of myself… It was April and warm in Texas but, after all, this was Wisconsin.’ The snow and chill in the air also reminded me that this was real. Not a dream like the others. Dickie wiggled next to me in the car. I hadn’t wanted her out of my sight since I found out about John.
We got to the funeral home and the director introduced himself and smiled at me. Not a real smile, but one of those smiles that tries to say “I’m sorry” and ends up making a person look like he’s sniffed garbage. He ushered the family into the chapel. Candles flickered everywhere and the uneven light made the shadows big, then small. There were flowers everywhere – looking bright and gloomy with ribbons and gold letters someone licked and stuck on. There was a tall stand with a picture of John on it… he was dressed in his uniform, smiling and looking vital and handsome. A giant flag – the biggest flag – covered his casket. I was glad the casket would remain closed. He had been flying a helicopter over Tay-Ninh province. Major Stewart said to keep it closed.
I knelt on the little kneeler and thought it must be all a big mistake… I thought of how big and invulnerable John was and how safe he always made me feel… like I had just been rescued. And I thought of being a widow at 22, of having a 10-month-old baby and of being pregnant. I knew that I could not do it alone. I remembered touching and being touched. My hand touched the flag and it was coarse and stiff. Underneath, the casket was wooden and shiny. It felt like it was made of ice. I was crying and whispering his name again and again – like if I said it enough it would become something real again. I should have been praying but it never entered my mind…. I had nothing to pray for, I didn’t believe in miracles. I believed in stiffness and coldness and the nothingness of names without beings behind them.
People began to come in and I composed myself to greet them. I kept staring at that huge flag, wondering if it always took such a big flag to hide these things.
The flag was missing during the funeral but appeared, like magic, outside the church. On the way to the cemetery I could see it through the window of the hearse – a shiny black coach, thousands of flowers and the broad red and white bands. Most people on the street were stopping to look. One boy kept on walking. He had on a red flannel shirt, long dirty hair and baggy, dirty jeans. Over the seat he had sewn a big flag and it was dingy from his sitting on it. I hated him. I thought of the hearse careening wildly over the sidewalk and splattering him everywhere. Instead, we lumbered along and they put John in the ground. (The American Legion had been thawing out the ground for three days and nights so that I would not have to come up to Wisconsin in the late Spring when it would be easier to dig a hole.) They gave me the giant flag. It was heavy to me, but John was stronger than I am.
Thank you Auntie Tina…and Dickie and Jake. Thank you for your sacrifice. You have given so much. And thank you Uncle Norman for stepping into this family and giving them your love.
I also want to share this audio story to say thank you to those who have served. It was written and read by Glenn Beck several years ago. I know there are so many opinions out there about him and you may have a bad opinion about him, but I ask you to put that aside for just a moment. This is not a political thing at all. I heard it last year and it has stayed in my memory ever since. It is simply something he shared to say thank-you that I think is a beautiful way for us all remember the givers. Remember…
And with that I pledge once again to live my life with honor. I pledge to raise my children to remember and live a life of purpose and purity. We will not waste the freedom which has paid for so dearly. We will not squander your gift. And I declare that you will NEVER be forgotten. Your sacrifice will always be valued…your sacrifice of time, family, life. We do understand what a rare and precious jewel you have given and for it we are profoundly thankful!