Memorial Day has an entirely new meaning for families of the deployed. It is a reminder of our sacrifice. The days leading up to it are much like the days leading up to another deployment in the continuous deployment cycle that is our family’s reality. You know that the news will be filled of images of Arlington and every movie channel will have a 2 hour series on the horrors of war. Friends will talk about their upcoming plans for BBQ. No one will mention the reason for the extra day off. One percent of us will dread the parts of the weekend that remind us that our child isn’t home safe eating BBQ with us, if we even BBQ at all. I wondered all week if Julien’s mother would visit Arlington this weekend. I wondered all week if I should find a way to contact her, to reach out in some way. To tell her that I think of her often and that I pray for her healing.
Every sound bite on the news becomes deeply personal. Yesterday evening I drove two hours east to watch my youngest granddaughter dance her first recital. Not feeling physically well, with my son heavy in my heart, I thought the excitement of her first dance would allow me some relief from the stress that is Memorial Day, July 4th, Pearl Harbor Day, Veteran’s Day and every other remembrance day that he spends there.
Replacements are there, allowing him to get out of the air for a while so that his body can heal before he heads back home. He’s been sick for days. He’ll come home only to be sent back over in another couple of months to start the work all over again. He loves his work. He never complains.
When we drove to the town square, parking was difficult due to a classic car show, something that happens each summer in many small rural towns. As we were walking up to the civic center, an announcement came over the loudspeaker that in the past, would have gotten my attention, but not stopped me dead in my tracks the way it does now knowing that my child will be considered a veteran.
The gentleman speaking was announcing the local color guard was there to assist them in the national anthem. I have always stopped when the anthem is played, in honor of my uncles, Jack, Carl Junior (noonee as he was known to me) and Kenny and cousin Carl J. II. I have always felt pride. But now the anthem throws me into a deep sorrow that only another military mother could understand.
As I stood there on the town square with my husband, we both placed our hands on our hearts and cried. We paused when it was over and acknowledged each other’s pain. No words needed. Tomorrow can’t come and go soon enough.