By Shiela K. Haynes
I am continually humbled by the service and sacrifice of our men and women in the Armed Forces.
When I read the passage in Isaiah 6:8, it always reminds me of our service members.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,
“Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
Reading the passage never fails to bring watery eyes and put a lump in my throat.
I remember reading of the heroism of our young soldiers storming the beaches at Normandy, I clearly remember watching the Vietnam War on the nightly news as a child and young teen, and I remember Desert Storm and the conflicts that followed and those that continue.
My grandfather was on a ship at Pearl Harbor. He did not talk about it. A few years ago, we went to Hawaii and visited the USS Arizona Memorial. The ranger told us people are naturally silent when they are there. They don’t have to be told to be quiet. There is something about that sacred space that commands reverence.
I think of those who gave their lives for our freedoms. I have read that the life expectancy for a second lieutenant in Vietnam was 16 minutes. I have no idea of the accuracy of that statement, but it would not shock me to hear it confirmed.
I was a little girl in 1968 when my second cousin was killed in combat. I had memories of him giving me piggyback rides and entertaining me at my grandparents’ house during family gatherings. He was handsome and intelligent. But I did not know him well. In the late 1990s, we happened to be in Washington, D.C. and we visited the Vietnam Wall. It was the first time I had been there. It took a few minutes, but I located his name and decided to take a rubbing for his parents who were still living at the time. And I was so shocked at the flood of grief I experienced with that simple act. I believe I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of what could have been while surrounded by the tangible reminder of lives not lived.
Our son Carter felt called to serve and signed on for a three-year stint in the U.S. Army in 2015. He had graduated from college with a business degree but decided to enlist. He went in as an E-4 Specialist. After basic, he joined the Third Infantry Division based at Fort Stewart, Georgia. It is a storied unit worth reading about. Upon arrival, his sergeant said, “I don’t understand. You enlisted and just completed basic training … and you are a specialist.” Carter responded, “I graduated from college, sir.” The sergeant responded, “Are you an idiot?”
Through our experience, I gained just a glimmer of the sufferings of our military families. It is hard for your loved one to be separated from you, in a foreign land, and not always able to be in touch. My hardships were minor compared to those experienced by others.
While our son did hear a lot of “thank you for your service” comments when in uniform, there were many times that he was berated or harassed for wearing the uniform. As though he was doing something wrong by serving his country. About a year ago, he was aggressively attacked by a young woman who discovered he was a veteran. There were times when he was serving that his superiors would instruct soldiers not to travel in uniform to avoid that sort of aggression.
For those who give so much, I don’t understand a viewpoint that would entail anything less than gratitude for our military men and women.
We should be thankful every day for those who willingly serve, and we should pray daily for their safety and well-being.
So just a small reminder this weekend when you are enjoying your Memorial Day celebration with a plate full of barbecue and a glass of sweet tea – don’t forget to honor and remember those who gave all for each one of us. God bless our troops and God bless America.