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So Blessed

May 30, 2016

Last night, I asked my 10 year old grandson to accompany me today to the DFW National Cemetery for the Memorial Day event. In my hometown, Jacksonville, we had wreath hangings and they usually had a nice ceremony and a beautiful remembrance of our fallen soldiers. I’ve missed going to that the last 2 years. Brandon asked why we needed to go to a cemetery to see markers of a bunch of dead guys. Here’s what I told him:

“According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, between the years of 1775-1991, 41,892,128 soldiers have served in our armed forces. 1,190,110 of those soldiers died while serving their country. 1,581,331 were wounded; some of those returned to battle to fight again. From 1991 to 2010 another 24,211 soldiers lost their lives in war. They died to protect our freedom. They leave their homes and their families for long periods of time to go all over the world to keep us safe.

Brandon, you are 11. Some of these men and women were only 7 years older than you. Others lied about their age and went even younger. They loved their country, their flag, their families, and you and me. ”

He was listening closely by this time and asked, “Nynny, why would they fight for me? They don’t even know me.”

I explained that the heart of a soldier was big like that and they loved the freedom we enjoy in this country. They loved the people in it and they wanted to see it preserved for everyone and their children and their children’s children. I also said, “A soldier stands at his duty post somewhere in the world as we are talking, is in danger, but is keeping watch, losing his sleep so that we can sleep without worry safe in our beds. Somewhere tonight, a soldier may die, giving his life up so we can be free. Somewhere today,a soldier’s family is eating their burgers with friends and praying their soldier will come home soon. Tomorrow, people will visit the graves of their soldiers bringing flowers in the only way they can show love to that soldier anymore.”

His reply, “Wow, so they are like Jesus. He gave up his life too.”

Today, we donned our red, white, and blue and drove to the cemetery. We did not expect the traffic and the press of people as families came to lay flowers and wreaths all over the cemetery and attend the ceremony. Brandon was visibly touched by the rows upon rows of graves and the flags at the ready. He began reading the names on some of the stones as our cart passed. There was silence in the cart and others listened respectfully.

On arrival at the ceremony, an older veteran was speaking but we were much too far away to hear his words and Brandon just watched other people. He was displeased that others around us were talking and disrespecting the speaker. A piper furled his bagpipes in the opening bars of Amazing Grace and he was on his feet in appreciation of the solemness of this moment. On hearing taps, he was ready to go and was silent as we rode back to our vehicle.

As we walked to our car, a soldier in uniform came toward us and Brandon met him halfway, shook his hand and thanked him for his service. With tears in his eyes the man hugged him, shook his hand and thanked him.

Be still, my heart. What a privilege to see my grandson grow very tall in that moment and show his gratitude for service and awareness of sacrifice.

He had little to say for much of the way to our lunch spot, Big State Diner. A sign on the wall said, “Do not let fear take away your dreams.” He asked what it meant and then said, “Wait, I know! I can have dreams because there are soldiers.”

After ordering his milkshake and cheeseburger with all the trimmings, he began to talk about his morning and what he had seen. When the food arrived, he asked to bless it.

Here is his prayer:

“Dear God, thank you for all the soldiers and Navy Seals like Uncle Peter. Thank you that they love us and love freedom. Thank you that I can have dreams because soldiers give up their time to make sure I get to dream. Thank you for our food.”

And Nynny said, “Amen,” with tears in her eyes.


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