After recently visiting my Uncle’s grave, I was upset to hear, once again, about another young man who lost his precious life.
Another son had died.
In a foreign, far away place.
He fell as a soldier wearing the United States uniform, and now, his parents were bringing him home.
And the reactions of the plane’s passengers made me sick.
VERY SICK and VERY ANGRY!
I wanted to cry. I felt horrified to think other human beings could be so calloused. Americans, at that!
I couldn’t even fathom this lack of respect, nor comprehend such a show of self-centeredness or whatever they thought they were trying to achieve.
What causes a person/people to treat a grieving family with such disdain?
What has happened to our America?
I tried to place myself in that family’s shoes; that frozen moment in time they will NEVER forget…
My heart was heavy for them.
But how can my heart be SO different from those that were on that plane?
My family is also familiar with this pain. They could tell you of profound grief.
We, too, lost a young soldier in Vietnam many years ago.
He was escorted home, finally.
It just happened to be decades after being listed as Missing in Action. (MIA)
It was the 60s and the Vietnam War was raging. My Uncle Terry had volunteered just as his two older brothers had.
He was part of a helicopter crew, rescuing the wounded when his helicopter was shot down.
Some of the men were thrown from the fiery crash, but Terry was never found.
We always wondered what the full story was.
Then, in 1993, some Vietnamese farmers came forth with items from a crash. And the story began to unfold.
Forensics were then confirmed in Honolulu, and my brother–then a young Marine himself– escorted Terry’s remains home.
Terry could’ve been buried at Arlington. However, the family thought it best to teach a community (and the younger generations) a valuable lesson.
A lesson we feared was being lost, not really taught in schools much anymore.
Not just one lesson, but many:
That war was cruel.
Kids were still dying to this day.
That we should be there to support families, help where needed, invite a military family over for the holidays.
(You know, just be a good human.)
That this could have been anyone’s son or daughter.
And there were other countries losing their people, DAILY, due to lack of freedom. Many picking up rifles to enter war as children.
that freedom had a price. Always has, always will.
A HUGE price.
So, on that hot and humid July 4th, Terry’s high school gym was packed out.
He was remembered for his talented football skills, and his kind, gentle ways.
His ultimate sacrifice recognized.
Our family, once again, was left with distant memories. Terry’s parents (my grandparents) had wounds reopened all over again.
People lined the streets, kids waved flags, and many a biker rode in from the surrounding states to finally return their MIA bracelets.
It was a memorable sight to see them piled high, on the floor, near my grandparents’ feet. It had to be so hard for them.
The news crews were there to capture it all.
The flag-draped coffin.
The thunderous flyover that moved you to your core.
The caisson; a solemn reminder as it passed through town to the beat of a sole drum.
COMPLETE RESPECT was shown that day.
Tragically, for this other family on the plane…
that didn’t happen.
There wasn’t much, if any, shown.
My Uncle Terry didn’t get to finish college.
And I sometimes wonder what his life might have looked like.
What would’ve been his hobby to tinker with?
Who would he have married? How many kids would he have?
He wasn’t able to marry, have kids or enjoy a weekend with family.
(Just to have another day to show his own thankfulness.)
No, he CHOSE to leave a comfortable life to help in a far away land.
He wanted to show his loyalty.
He wanted to make sure we were ALL afforded continued freedom.
Simply put…HIS MOTIVES were PURE.
If I had been on that plane, I can tell you…
I could NOT have sat there silently!
I KNOW that I would’ve stood to speak for that family.
I KNOW, I would’ve cried with that family.
I KNOW I would’ve tried to apologize to that family.
AND, I would’ve thanked them and made it clear that this is not the totality of America, that my Uncle, nor their son, gave their lives for!!
Find a military family to reach out to.
Reach out to a grieving widow, a cop, a neighbor…your community.
Invite someone over for the holidays. Say a prayer for others.
Show some thankfulness.
Bridge the gap(s).
Teach your kids.
Show honor and respect.
I know my Uncle Terry would have,
if he could.
Written in honor of Terry who would have turned 72 on Feb. 4th.
For Terry’s military documented story: