Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Thank You for Your Service


I watched a bit of television on Memorial Day. I watched the President honor those who fought in war, specifically from the Viet Nam era conflict. Soldiers of the Viet Nam conflict were neglected and ignored upon their return stateside. I've never been sure why that occurred but somewhere in my soul I believe it was due to the intense and immediate media coverage that allowed the American peoples to view war as they had never seen before, unless of course they had been involved in such military activities.

Every evening our homes and living rooms were bombarded with images and reports of what was happening in Viet Nam. I was younger then, but still I remember the images that were displayed for all America to view. Who does not remember the horrific footage of the naked little girl burned so badly from napalm? Or how on March 16, 1968, during the Vietnam War, United States troops under the command of Lt. William L. Calley Jr. carried out a massacre of about 500 unarmed men, women and children in the village of My Lai?

My own husband served two tours of Southeast Asia. More fortunate than most, he did not see a lot of combat battle, but worked as a specialist in a supply depot for the Air Force. The base had attacks on occasion and shells and mortars flew, but it was nothing like the Army or the Marines saw.

I did not know him at that time. While he was off serving his country I was stateside exercising my free speech in protesting the war. Not in a violent manner but making my presence and voice heard outside the Draft Board. Whichever one of us was right or wrong, well that still remains to be seen in the scope of eternity, however I do thank God for the right and privileges that have been preserved by those in uniform. That certainly includes my freedom of speech.
I remember well the first time I saw him in uniform (VFW) and calling cadence while marching in a Memorial Day parade. My heart swelled with pride! 
Recently he qualified for veterans' benefits and they have deemed his heart condition to be part and parcel of his Viet Nam experience. The defoliant housed at the supply depot. Who knew? We certainly didn't. We're still waiting to hear if his asthma, which mysteriously turned up when he was 38 is also related to Agent Orange.
Years ago we were in D.C. and visited the Viet Nam Memorial. That experience was overwhelming.
Most of the television channels were attempting to honor veterans via movies. On the Spike network A Band of Brothers was playing nonstop. I do realize that even though based upon actual events, a lot of this program is artistic drama.

The next to the last program of the day showed the Band of Brothers coming upon a Prisoner of War / Concentration Camp and liberating those imprisoned who remained alive. It never ceases to bring me to tears to watch programs of the liberation of those from concentration camps.

It made me recall a visit we had with Dale and Wilma Bumpus, the family from whom we purchased the 100 yr. old farm house in Ohio. I am not sure how or why the conversation turned to war time activities and soldiers. Mr. Bumpus brought out some artifacts he brought home from Germany. Then quietly, reverently, this Christian man told of stumbling upon a concentration camp and of the horrors he witnessed. This man, this for all appearances a strong, stout and healthy farmer was reduced to tears and sobs remembering the war crimes he and his squadron stumbled upon that fateful day.

What does one say in the face of such horror and atrocity? There was nothing that could be said. We could only sit there quietly with his wife Wilma and listen with tears streaming down our own faces. Those horrific images were permanently etched upon his mind and heart for the remainder of his days.

I am by no means a pacifist, but I love peace and am antiviolence inclined. It breaks my heart even now to see pictures from the middle East where children are playing with toy weapons and acting out that environment in which they live.

I had a pastor give me a definition of what being a pacifist or conscientious objector actually consisted of.  Simply stated he said if aggressors come to your village, your home and still you are unwilling to take up arms to defend your property, your family and your home, then you can claim the title and status. If, however, you are incensed enough to defend yourself, your family and community, then you cannot make that claim. That gives me cause to pause… and reflect even more deeply upon what Memorial Day is about.

Pure and simply, it is about giving honor where honor is due. It is about saying “thank you for your service” and meaning it. It is about walking through an airport and seeing a group of soldiers, both male and female, and spontaneously breaking out into applause. Or walking intentionally up to a person in uniform and thanking them for their service.
Not too many years ago we were in an airport when I noticed a young couple. He was behind his wife with a hand on her shoulder while she led him to where they needed to be. As I got closer I saw his T-shirt. Wounded Warriors it said. The scars on his face told the story of an IED explosion that left him scarred and without sight.  He had his legs, he had his arms and he had his wife. What does one do or say in the face of that? Thank you seems so inadequate for such a sacrifice.
This is America. This is the land I love. We can debate war until Jesus comes to take us home. If you have served this country in some manner – thank you, from the bottom of my heart, thank you!

Tamara

PS  Psalm 72:4

 

New International Version (NIV)

4 May he defend the afflicted among the people 
and save the children of the needy; 
may he crush the oppressor.