Not Forgotten Oct21

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Not Forgotten

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A couple weeks ago, my husband and I had the great honor of attending my brother’s Welcome Home ceremony at Fort Carson, Colorado.  My brother and his brigade of 300 soldiers were returning from 9 months in the Middle East, this the second deployment for him in 3 years. We had visited his base once before but had never attended a welcome home ceremony for him or anyone else in the Army.  This was going to be an especially unique reunion because my brother would be meeting his 7 week old daughter for the first time.  He had requested leave from his post in Kuwait to try to be there for her birth but had been denied.

We arrived at the Ceremony about an hour before the soldiers were scheduled to arrive.  The gym was draped with sweet country-style Fall decorations – pumpkins, hay bails, American flags, streamers.  We sat down in the front row in the middle of the bleachers and waited as patiently as we could.

My brother’s wife would start to get teary and I thought about what she must be feeling. Overwhelming relief.  Anxiety about reintegration.  A deep urgency to be with her husband. The clock showed that we had only 5 minutes left until arrival.  The gym got quiet and a song came on through the speakers.  The opening bars of God Bless the U.S.A. soothingly enveloped us in a wave of calm.  Sheesh!  A sappy song to make us all cry, I thought.  Then I started listening to the words.

If tomorrow all the things were gone that I’d worked for all my life, and I had to start again with just my children and my wife… I’d thank my lucky stars, to be living here today, because the flag still stands for Freedom, and they can’t take that away.

And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free… and I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that Right to me… and I gladly stand up, next to you and defend her still today, because there aint no doubt I love this Land, God Bless the U.S.A….

I looked over at my husband and tears started streaming down my face.  His eyes were welled up and we turned to my sister and her husband who looked at us with the same eyes… we laughed while we cried.  I looked around at the hundreds of families in those bleachers and the first word that came to my mind was Sacrifice.  In that moment, I felt gravely ashamed for not appreciating what these people were doing for us.  No one forced them to serve us this way.  They were there for a lot of different reasons, but it was honorable and sacrificial… and absolutely essential.

Later that night, my family sat around a little hotel living room, holding our precious babies and watching my brother’s first couple hours as a daddy.  My sister asked him, “What’s the first thing you’d like to do now that you’re home?”  He paused for a moment.  “While you’re down range, it’s like your spirit dies.  It will take a few weeks for me to feel happy again…” We were grateful for his honesty, but hearing those words grieved me deeply.  My heart ached for him, and every soldier that experienced the same.

Since that night, I have thought a lot about the armed services.  I could go on for a long time about all the things I’d change about how our Country fights for and defends its freedom, but the most important thing that I’ve been needing to say is this.  My brother, thank you… thank you.  You have sacrificed greatly.  Your service humbles me.  You are not forgotten and never will be.  I love you more than you know or believe.  And I will pray that our great God, our Counselor, comforts your heart and your mind… and that you will be happy again very soon.

Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.”