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11-11-11: A Day of Thanksgiving

November 14, 2011

Last Friday was 11-11-11.  I heard on the radio that over 3,000 couples planned on getting married that day in Las Vegas as they felt like getting married on that particular date would be lucky. It was also Veterans Day.  And, this Veterans Day was very special to me for 2 reasons: my daughter’s boyfriend proposed to her – and she said “yes!”; and my soldier son was home from his last deployment. For good. In one piece. Safe and sound.

Recently, while watching one of my favorite crime-solving dramas, there was a scene that showed a casket being unloaded.  In that casket was an Army captain who did not make it back. My son is a captain in the Army too. As I watched that scene, tears welled up in my eyes and I all but fell to my knees thanking God that I never had to stand on a tarmac and watch as my son’s casket was being off-loaded.

But, not having to experience that pain makes me all the more mindful of those that have. And, for those families and loved ones, I’m quite certain that Veterans Day is sad at worst and bittersweet at best.  I too had mixed feelings and intend to devote some time and money to one of my new favorite charities, The Wounded Warrior Project.

I ran across an essay this weekend that I’d forgotten about and that I’d written about my reaction to my son’s 1st deployment. My feelings the 2nd time I saw him off were no different.  I’d like to share with you an excerpt from that essay:

“I was the kind of mother whose intentions were to mold and guide versus train and demand.  So, I muddled through mothering and low and behold, when  both of my children reached the age of majority, I found that they (and I) had somehow survived their childhoods and that they had both become …….contributing, responsible adults.

I miss their growing-up years but I’m thankful for where we all are now in our lives. However, having said that, I do wish my son were somewhere else.  You see, he is in Afghanistan – has been for the past few days – fulfilling his obligation to the U.S. and to the taxpayers who paid for his college education from the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY.  I knew that when I brought him to West Point the day might come when I would have to send him off to some far away middle eastern country. I was hoping and praying that “things” would settle down and be about over “over there” – but they didn’t and aren’t.

So my husband, daughter, several family friends and I saw him off two weeks ago. It was an agonizing two hour wait in the Ft. Hood gym for his unit’s manifest. We passed the time visiting, joking and taking pictures. What none of us did was cry, act sad, etc. My son had instructed us earlier to act “normal” instead of all morose.   Finally, his unit was called to attention. They lined up and filed out to load busses that would take them to the airport.  The last thing my son saw as he marched onto the bus was our smiling faces giving him a “thumbs up.”  Waving goodbye to him with a smile on my face was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do.

You see, all I saw as he marched past was an adorable little boy who loved me so intensely that he used to mash his face to mine so hard when he gave me kisses that they actually hurt.  The little boy with big green eyes that could melt my heart – no matter what he had done – was the same little boy who cried after seeing a movie about dinosaurs where the mother of one of the baby dinosaurs died.  His tears were real– and VERY big – and related to the newly realized fear about the possibility that his mommy could die.

But that wasn’t who marched past me and flew to Afghanistan. The little boy I “saw” was actually a
grown man – one who was resolved in accepting his responsibilities and doing his job to the best of his capabilities. I’d never been prouder of him – he was the man I had envisioned him becoming.

So, my goodbye that day at Ft. Hood was really to the little boy who made my heart sing.  As he
marched past me, so did his childhood and all of the joy, tears, glory, frustration and love that are now memories of another time and another place. I look forward to the day when my son – who I had to realize and accept that day was, indeed, a grown man – returns from “over there”. As a grown man, he still makes my heart sing – and, I suspect, always will.”

So, folks, this past Veterans Day, 11-11-11, will always be remembered fondly and with joy.  My daughter is marrying a very fine young man who is already loved by our family and my son is home.  I.Am.Indeed.Thankful.

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