Friday, November 11, 2016

Veteran's Day - The Military's Family

Abe, Army
Calvin, Army
Ty, Air Force

Years ago – years and years ago – we had two little babies. One night Calvin said, “Jane, if there is another war where I am needed I plan to re-enlist.” I cried. I begged him to realize he’d already served his time (he was drafted during the Viet Nam war) and that now we had children to raise. I tried to get him to see that fighting and going to war was someone else’s job now, not ours. He told me it was everyone’s job, in one way or another, to protect our freedom. I fervently hoped the day would never come, because he would not be swayed.

For the next few years I often thought about Calvin’s lone comment. A few times I asked him if he still felt the same; he insisted that he did, and each time my heart sweat fear.

Several years passed and more babies joined our family.  My mind gradually came to understand his way of thinking and eventually joined his, “If not us, then who?”

By the time our sons, Abe and Ty, enlisted in the military, my heart and mind were at peace. Well-intending family, friends and acquaintances suggested it was “others’” responsibility to defend America, but the boys believed as Calvin and had a desire to serve God, fellowman, and country. I clearly remember standing humbly and proudly next to Calvin on the sidelines as each boy took his oath to protect and defend the constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic. They understood freedom is worth defending.

A few summers ago Ruth came up to me at a Fourth of July celebration and said, “I didn’t realize you come from a military family and I just wanted to say thank you for all your family has done for this country’s freedom.”

Frankly, I was surprised. Even though Calvin’s grandfather served in WWI, his dad in WWII, and Calvin during Viet Nam, I didn’t think of him as coming from a military family. Even though my grandfather served during WWI, my father in the Korean War, and our sons serve now, I didn’t see us as a military family either. I thought military families were like the . . .

Eisenhower family. (President Eisenhower was a General and his sons followed his military lead.)

Or . . .

The McCain family. (Senator McCain’s father was a Navy admiral, Senator McCain was a Naval officer and POW, and his son a Naval officer.)

Or. . .

The countless families that move all over the world in the name of the United States Military.

These are the types are families I considered to be military families, and they are. They have blessed our country immeasurably by their sacrifice and service.

I guess it’s because we’re normal people living normal lives in normal houses that I hadn’t thought of us being a “military family.” Ruth’s comment helped me realize that military families are much more common than I had supposed.

A few years ago a young man from my hometown had his legs blown off in Iraq. He was a track star and the loss of his legs seemed sardonic. I watched my hometown rally to his support. Hundreds left appreciative and concerned comments on his progress blog, and I suspect even more prayed for his recovery and adjustment. Fundraisers were held and ceremonies planned. Suddenly military families were created as hundreds reached out and adopted him as their own and cheered for his new achievements – first, breathing on his own, then eating on his own, and finally sitting by himself.

Or Bill Crawford, a janitor at the United States Air Force Academy. He swept, mopped, and scrubbed toilets, but he didn’t talk much. The cadets didn’t pay him much attention either. Until one day . . .

A cadet was reading about a tough Allied ground battle in Italy during WW II. The book recorded that Private Bill Crawford had charged forward as his platoon was being pelleted by machine guns. He had thrown a hand grenade into the machine gun nest. Two other machine gun nests began to shoot from the left and the right so Bill ran into the bullets and, after capturing the nests, began using the guns on the running German soldiers. His platoon was able to advance and they fought until night fall. Bill lay somewhere on the battle field, but no one could find him. His fellow soldiers assumed him dead and submitted his name to receive the Medal of Honor in gratitude for his bravery and saving their lives. His father received the award posthumously.

But, Bill was not dead. He was a prisoner of war in a German camp. The thing that got him through that camp was a scripture from his Red-Cross issued, pocket New Testament: Romans 8:31 “If God be for us, who can be against us.” He hung on to that verse to get him through the deplorable camp conditions and the rest of his life as he faced new challenges. Even scrubbing toilets and mopping floors at the Air Force Academy.

When the cadets discovered that Bill was a Medal of Honor recipient, news spread quickly through the corps. The young men made more time to talk to Bill, asked him for advice, and cleaned up better after themselves. They adopted him as their father, their family. They also arranged to have President Ronald Reagan present the Medal of Honor to Bill properly as part of their graduation ceremony. Bill was part of their family.

We don’t have to wait until a soldier’s legs are gone or until we learn of a soldier’s courage and bravery to adopt them into our families and hearts to say, “Thank you for defending my family, America, and her constitution.”

Veteran’s Day makes military families out of all of us as we honor the service and sacrifice of those who defend and rebuild this nation and promote the freedom they protect.

Thank you veteran’s - past and active duty - thank you.

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