Last Thursday, I went to the Charlotte Motor Speedway and helped with the assembly of the American Veterans Traveling Tribute – The Cost of Freedom Tribute. This tribute is a traveling Vietnam Memorial, Gold Dog Tag wall remembering those who have fallen 1) In hostile military actions between the end of Vietnam and the 9/11 attack and 2) As a member of the armed forces who have given their life in the Global War on Terror. It was truly an honor to be a part of this project.
Before I left, I went and read the names on the gold dog tags. There was a group of names that touched my soul. Almost six years ago, Will was winding down his tour in Iraq at Haditha Dam when the “Battle of Haditha” took place. These Marines lost their lives securing the perimeter of where Will and so many others were. I wrote a letter to each family who lost a Marine during that fight expressing my most sincere gratitude and my humblest of sympathies. I’ve told the story several times over the past 5-1/2 years, to different groups and people, but when I saw their names on the gold dog tags, I cried. Not a silent, tears streaming cry, but the big, body shaking cry right there in the gravel lot. It shook me to my core. There are so many who “know” war, or claim to. I claimed to. Those who know it, they know it from different perspectives, but, honestly, it wasn’t until that moment that I felt like I knew war. But my family’s fate was spared that day. These brave Marines from Ohio answered the call to serve our nation and paid the ultimate sacrifice allowing our families to continue living our lives as we know
We attended the Coca Cola 600. I’m not a huge race fan, but I love the “feel of the thunder” under my feet in the stands. This race is my favorite because of the tribute to our service members before the race starts. There were many, many service members and veterans there. Some you can spot because of the haircut. Others it was the proud display of a t-shirt or hat with the campaign in which they served. And some were wearing branch specific hats/shirts. There were tributes and accolades and all things wonderful. I smiled, cheered and clapped. I did all the things one does when we’re celebrating. Then they played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes and I was, once again, shaken to the core. The first time I ever heard “Amazing Grace” played on the bagpipes was in the cold wind at a soldier’s funeral. There are some things that are forever etched in my mind and that is one of them. Then the twenty-one gun salute. Then Lee Greenwood sang “God Bless the USA.” The tears continued. Then Darius Rucker sang our national anthem. The tears continued
Over the past few years, with all the bumps and bruises, I have found myself sometimes losing sight of what is truly important. I had to write an “essay” about me for a recruiter not too long ago. It’s hard to write about yourself; at least it is for me. As I began to put my thoughts on paper, I was reminded of how I have been touched by the lives, smiles, heartaches, tears and compassion of so many people. I was reminded that one of my core philosophies is to try and learn from my mistakes. I was reminded that everything that has happened to me in my life has helped to shape me and mold me into the person I am today – the good and the bad. I was reminded that no matter what, I will always carry with me having been a military spouse and that has been one of the greatest paths in my life because it has afforded me the opportunities to meet, support, and work with some of the most amazing people on the planet.
Although this post is late, I do hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day and you took a few minutes to think and reflect back on the freedoms we have and those who have served our great nation.
There is never a time that is inappropriate for thanking a service member – past or present. “Thank you” and “We appreciate you” are sentiments that are of few words, but mean a lot. But also remember this… it also translates into our everyday lives, too. Take a moment to thank someone who has done something that you appreciate. A kind word goes so far and you never know… you may be the brightest spot to their day.