A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom. – Bob Dylan
I look forward to walking my puppy in the evenings. It’s a nice way to decompress after a long day and enjoy the beauty of the seasons. Especially in the summer.
One of my favorite views is of an older church in our neighborhood. The well-kept building and its grounds are beautiful and peaceful. It reminds me of the iconic, Americana view of a sunset, steeple and lush trees.
13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 KJV
It sure has been a crazy ride, living this military life. There was no way to know what we were in for back in the day. I think about so many who have served – you, our son; my brothers, your brother. Your dad and grandfather. My uncles, your uncles. Our cousins and nephews and neighbors and friends. And by default, all of the spouses and parents and other family members who serve by supporting.
There were a lot of things so foreign to me when we started out, especially all the acronyms. I remember constantly asking, “What does this mean?” And you patiently responded more times than I can count.
“I could give you some medication for him. It would alleviate some of the pain, but…”
I knew when I hugged him that it would be for the last time. Cradled in my oldest son’s arms, I bid farewell to our family’s dog.
He had a wonderful life. He lived better than some humans, as he never wanted for a meal or a warm place to lay his head.
Apparently, I slept through what my husband said was Jack’s very labored breathing. Our dear old dog made some very odd sounds, jarring my husband awake. And since I woke at my usual time, I let Jack outside while I filled his dish with his breakfast, not knowing what had transpired through the night.
How apropos. As a writer, I am always looking out for metaphors and foreshadowing. So when the skies started to darken in the early afternoon, it seemed about right. My mood was a bit gloomy. After two and a half weeks of perfect weather, our perfect vacation was coming to an end.
A year ago at this time, we were prepping for my husband’s deployment. He’d be gone for about ten months. The third time in ten years he’d be gone for an extended time, but this time around, there would be no mid-tour breaks.
Deployments are always a challenge. But this one, by far, was the hardest. Maybe because we’d never been apart ten straight months. In the almost-34 years since we’e been married, the most we’d ever been apart was six months. A week or two of respite mid-tour provided something to look forward to. But not this time.
Ten months is a long time to be apart. Like other military families, we have come to acknowledge that this is now our way of life – our sacrifice. But you never get used to it. And it never, ever, gets easier.
One grows weary of doing things alone – from eating to attending weddings, graduations, funerals and the like. There is always a “Deployment Disaster,” and this time was no different. A few years ago, we had a pipe break under the basement floor. A smelly, messy repair. This time, our hot water tank blew, and the entire brake system in the car needed to be replaced. And the disasters don’t take into account the emotional toll families go through with illness, injury and deaths.
You live for the phone calls – and yes, we were blessed this time to talk almost daily. I learned a few deployments ago to expand my horizons, and this last time was no different. I returned to college to complete my degree; took a few art classes, and stepped out of my comfort zone a few times more than I planned.
At the end of this deployment, we decided to do something completely different this time around. Since all of our children are adults now, we decided to reintegrate after deployment in a brand-new way. Because school schedules, proms and graduations are now all complete, we had no reason to hang around town during my husband’s leave. Plus, we needed something to look forward to after ten months of stress and crazy schedules.
A few years ago, hubby spent six weeks on temporary orders in Italy. I’m mature enough to admit that I was jealous, and I often reminded him of my jealousy. Since I was a little girl, I have wanted to go to Italy. I remember eating many delicious dinners at my godparents’ home, so my love of Italian food has been rooted in me for a half-century. In grade school, I was fascinated that Italy looked like a boot. And then years and years of seeing pictures, reading travel blogs and watching documentaries of this magical place just fed my desire to get there.
And get there, we did.
Not only did I want to see Italy, I wanted to experience Italy. The history, the food, the fashion, the culture and the people.
For two and a half weeks, we ate the most amazing food, drank the most incredible wines, enjoyed delicious espressos and cappuccinos, walked the most historic ruins and relaxed by the Mediterranean Sea. Friends that my husband made five years ago welcomed us both with open arms, and shared their country with us.
It was amazing.
Our entire time in the Naples (Napoli) area was rich with every positive experience I had dreamed of. It was emotionally, spiritually, physically and mentally the vacation we both needed.
I can’t count the number of times I prayed and thanked God for the gift He gave my husband and I with our trip.
I can’t count the number of times I have shared our trip with others, and the excitement and peace that I found on that trip is recreated in my soul.
I can’t guarantee that I won’t bore some people to tears with tales of our adventure. I guess that is a risk that you, my cherished reader, will have to take, as I present to you a series of posts on our trip.
I felt broken in 2016. I lost myself in the myriad of problems I faced while my husband was away. Grieving the loss of loved ones; health problems and surgeries of loved ones; loneliness, even though I wasn’t necessarily alone; loss and dismay due to the nastiness brought on by politics. I had a writer’s block that couldn’t be budged, and an anxiety level that could rock me to the core.
And yet, once I boarded the plane with my husband, all of that angst began to melt away. I have never felt more relaxed in my life. I appreciated my faith more – and it had nothing to due with air turbulence or insane driving experiences in a foreign land. I felt rooted; I felt grounded – maybe that’s what the mountains and the sea will do for one’s soul.
Over the next few weeks, I will write about all of our experiences and travels in one of the most beautiful regions of the world.
Yes, it rained on our last day in Italy. And when we met up with one of our friends – who is learning English – he apologized that it was raining on our last day in country. “Italy is sad to see us leave,” I said. He smiled, nodded, and replied, “You make a joke that I understand. It is funny.”
Yes, it may have been funny. We were pleased he began to understand our tongue-in-cheek vernacular. However, the rain mixed in with my tears as we said “arrivederci” to our friends. It wasn’t the weather we wanted for our last day, but for sure, it provided a great metaphor to use, and one that I etched into my heart and my travel journal.
Apparently, it is. Our youngest was in preschool; now, she’s in her second year of college. Our granddaughters are older than our two youngest were the day of the attacks.
Fifteen years – a blink of an eye for some of us; an eternity for those who lost loved ones.
Most of my peers can recall that day like it happened yesterday. Our children and now grandchildren heard – or will hear of – the stories and learn about this event in history class.
The attacks of September 11, 2001, were referred to as the “Pearl Harbor” of our day.
Remembering September 11, I recall the fear and the sadness of that day. Our children talk about how eerily quiet it was. Such a pretty day, yet no one was outside playing. The skies were quiet as all aircraft was grounded. Towards evening, our neighbors gathered somberly. I remember how the stages of grief began to unfold: specifically shock, sadness and anger. I couldn’t tear myself away from the images on TV, and yet I couldn’t bear to watch. I recall how sleep wasn’t an escape, and morning came with the wonder of whether the attacks happened or it was all a bad dream.
It’s hard not to remember the day our world changed. Some changes for the worse, and some for the better. We saw horrific images and mourned the loss of thousands. But we also saw humanity and bravery at its best – strangers helping strangers. We witnessed selfless acts.
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:” Ecclesiastes 3:1 KJV
Sadly, it seems we have forgotten what it is like to put our differences aside for the common good of all. Once, though we stood on opposite sides of politics, religion and countless other opinions, we were able to push that aside and embrace our common humanity. Today, we let those differences define us and stand toe to toe, trying to come out on top of our arguments.
I have written about military life, patriotism and September 11, 2001, countless times. Last fall, my husband and I had the opportunity to stop at the Flight 93 National Memorial, a site so humble and haunting. A site where heroes stopped a planned attack on the nation’s capital, where we had also spent some time visiting that same weekend.
“A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;” Ecclesiastes 3:4 KJV
It is my hope, that as we recall the events of the terror attacks, we recall the humanitarian acts in the days that followed. By remembering the good, we would find our common ground again. Instead of bickering, we would be compassionate. That we stop a moment and remember the lives that were lost and the life that we continue to live.
“I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.” Ecclesiastes 3:12 KJV
I hope that we remember that evil doesn’t triumph. I hope we remember that even though tragedies make the headlines, that there is still good in the world. That even during tumultuous times, there are still people willing to put on a uniform every day – be it military members, police officers, firefighters or EMTs – to make sure that our little corner of the world is safe. That in an emergency, these brave souls will risk their own lives for the good of a stranger.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 KJV
On this day, we are remembering September 11, 2001. May we #NeverForget
“The sanctity of our battlefields, monuments, and veterans institutions is of utmost importance to preserve military history and pay respect to those who fought.” Henry Waxman
One of the perks of having an “almost-empty-nest” is the ability to travel more frequently. As it happens, the opportunity for an extended weekend away from home has happened a few times this fall. Most recently, I tagged along with my husband on a trip to Maryland.
I had never been there before, and we had a great time getting to our destination. Driving through Ohio, I was manning the interior controls of the rental car, and almost cooked us inside out when I turned on the heated seats full blast while trying to find the air conditioning. Fun times – always a laugh a minute with yours truly. Continue reading “Patriotic path to Veterans Day”
As I sit here remembering where I was on September 11, 2001, it is hard to even fathom how something so horrific happened in our nation. Like so many others, I replay the awful, tragic events of the day.
I remember sitting outside on our porch the evening of the attacks, trying to wrap my brain around what I saw that morning. Our children were close by – we weren’t letting them out of our sight. The sky was calm and blue, and pastel hues began to emerge as the sun was setting. It was eerily quiet with no aircraft flying overhead. Neighbors were coming over, and a large gathering of stunned and somber people filled our yard. Folks that would normally just nod hello actually stopped to chat longer, as everyone needed to be surrounded by someone.
The next morning, people were lined up outside a flag store in our town, and by mid-day, America flags were swaying gently in the breeze on almost every house. News stories talked about long lines for giving blood donations; doctors and others were jumping in their cars and heading to New York to lend assistance; bottled water, clothing and non-perishables were collected. Churches opened their doors for prayer. People were kinder to each other and helping each other – looking out for their neighbors. September 12 brought about a change of heart and spirit. Police, firefighters and military members were thanked and honored. Somehow, as awful as September 11 was, September 12 began anew. Patriotism was sincere. People were changed.
So now, 14 years later, I have to ask, what the heck happened? How on earth did we forget what it was like to be bonded together and act civil towards one another?
Just this past week, a firefighter lost his life to an angry hit-and-run driver. Police officers are under attack, and I stopped counting how many we lost last week. Military members and their families are threatened. There have been instances where first responders have been refused service just because they are police officers or service members.
I’m not delusional – I know that there are a few rogue cops and soldiers amongst the ranks. But the majority of our first responders are honorable people. These are the folks that not only protect us, they serve us. They go into burning buildings; they perform first aid and CPR; they extract people from twisted wreckage; they deliver babies who are born en route to the hospital; they put a uniform on every day, and every day wonder if they will come home to their families.
And the discord doesn’t stop there. It runs so deep that it is oozing all over social media. If you have an opinion that is different from someone else’s, you are chastised and humiliated for speaking your mind. Bad manners and rudeness runs rampant.
Why don’t we care about each other anymore? Everything is a shouting match, a protest, or angry sparring online. There is little civility, and there is little to no respect for authority or anyone else. Sanctity of life seems to be out the window. People have died due to beatings at sports events. Spirits get crushed by betrayals made public.
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other.” Mother Teresa
We are divided and fragmented, hateful and opinionated instead of being united as one, like we were on September 12, 2001.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like who we have become. Reading or watching the news is difficult. Just when you think you’ve heard it all, another sick and demented story airs on the crimes committed against other human beings.
“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” Mother Teresa
It’s true. I can’t change the world, but I can change for the people in my world, starting with:
Thanking our family, friends, neighbors and all others who are police officers, firefighters and military members. I don’t think any of these folks know how much they are loved and appreciated for what they do, every single day. And a huge shout-out to the first-responder families for their support.
Acknowledging people with a greeting, a nod or a smile.
Appreciating all forms of labor and the workers that make my life easier.
Trying harder to be patient with people in general, acknowledging that they may be having the worst day of their life.
Being kinder to others, especially when I am having a rough day.
Treating others as I want to be treated.
Being grateful for what I have.
Smiling more; frowning less.
Praying more; complaining less.
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Mother Teresa
My faith leads me to know that out of evil, God brings good. The good that came from the evil of September 11 were the positive changes we made on September 12. I pray that we won’t wait for another horrible act to bring us together. We can bring good from evil again.
It is Memorial Day weekend, a chance to have a reprieve from work, spend time with family, and, hopefully, enjoy some decent weather.
But, Memorial Day means so much more. It is the day set aside to honor our military’s fallen heroes.
As a military family, we are truly humbled by this holiday. We know the sacrifices made in order to serve. And we are in mourning with the families whose service members made the ultimate sacrifice.
Over the past few years, I have written about service and sacrifice, and compiled a few of my “reader favorites” here, complete with links. Some of these essays have been picked up by other sites, which was a real honor for me.
Please take a moment to remember our fallen heroes and their families this Memorial Day weekend. Whether you attend a parade, a service at a cemetery, or just pause for quiet reflection, know that freedom isn’t free, and we are immensely blessed by those who do serve.