Everytime we see one, she says it–yells it–without fail. At the park, in someone’s yard, driving down the highway, as we see it waving over a car dealership.
I did not teach my daughter to refer our country’s flag as Daddy’s flag. I am not sure how she made that association, but it’s a beautiful one. We have a flag hanging on the outside of the home. It never comes down. Only once in the last year, have I taken it down. A horrible storm hit us, and I knew that flag would be destroyed. I could not allow that, especially in his absence.
It was one of the first aspects I found to be a very attractive and beautiful quality of my husband’s. His love for the Flag. He knows that it’s never supposed to touch the ground, and is not to be displayed in the dark unless a light is shining on it. He grows indignant when people are flying tattered, worn flags, since they are supposed to be retired once they are in that condition. What I initially saw as a rare and strong respect for our Flag in my husband, I realized much later that it only represents the stronger love he has for our country.
And my daughter sees that.
Only someone who loves their country so much could leave his pregnant wife and daughter behind, could leave again when their second child was less than a week old. Only a man of that caliber could step into his boots, don his uniform, and walk through airport security smiling and head held high, as his wife stands behind him sobbing. As his daughter screams for Daddy.
Bravery. Love. Patriotism.
He stares at his family through a horribly pixelated screen. He talks to his newborn daughter as she stares at the computer. He plays peekaboo with his toddler, and she giggles and “hugs” Daddy wrapping her arms around the computer. Only he could keep smiling as she yells, “Night night, Daddy! Love you! See you soon!” Only a man like this could look daily into the face of his wife left at home and tell her everything is going to be okay, that she’s doing a great job.
I could never do a Soldier’s job.
Leaving behind everything they know, everything they love, everything familiar. Entering a war zone, living daily with the possibility of this being a one-way trip. That they might not make it home. To their families, their homes, their lives. They live in tents, sleep in dirt, eat out of bags. They watch friends suffer atrocious injuries. They lose limbs.
Or their life.
The ball caps give the older ones away. Only a few of us can pick out that familiar haircut on the young ones. They don’t wear the ball caps. They don’t want to stand out. I know–I’m married to one. Instead, they blend into the crowds when they are off-duty, wearing street clothes. But that high and tight haircut is their ball cap.
As Veteran’s Day approaches, I find myself without words to express my gratitude to all those who serve. Because I have seen the cost, I’ve lived life next to a Soldier. I’ve seen him off to war, waited for his phone calls, prayed for his safe return. Every night, my daughters and I pray, “Dear Lord, we just ask that you bring Daddy home safe, sound, alive, and in once piece.
Safe. Sound. Alive. One Piece.
Some, many, are not so lucky. They find themselves in danger, explosions, attacks. Some come home in many pieces. Some come home missing pieces.
As you sit next to your spouses, remember those who are living without theirs and those who will never see their spouse again. As you lie in bed next to your best friend, remember the Soldiers who are lying in dirt and tents praying to come home alive and their spouses at home sleeping alone. As you sit down at your table with warm food and your entire family, remember our service men and women who are ducking into foxholes and leaning over MRE’s and cafeteria food. When you pick up your cell phone to call your spouse at work or see their name pop up on your phone, remember those Soldiers who go weeks and months without being able to call home, or watch their children grow up before them through a computer screen. During the Holidays, remember the families who are separated and are struggling with loneliness.
Daddy’s flag. Our Flag. The American Flag. The United States of America.
It’s what our Soldiers stand for, what they daily risk their lives for. They button their uniforms, they tie their boots, they enter war zones for our country. For us. And all give some, but some give all. Some never make it home to their families. Some never see their children’s faces, hold their spouses, again. They are sent home in a box and laid in the ground under a white stone. For you. For our country. Because they love this ground that much.
As you celebrate Veteran’s Day this week, remember those who have given some, and especially remember those who have given all. God bless them. And God bless America.
(Thank you to my own Soldier, still away from his family defending this country he loves so much. I am so proud of you, so inspired by you, and so in love with you. Thank you.)