Welcome to 2TheHeart!
"None of us who have always been free can understand the terrible fascinating power of the hope of freedom to those who are not free." ~ Pearl S. Buck
I've had so many excellent submissions for our Patriot Week at 2TheHeart! In order to include more, I've doubled up these last two editions and skipped the Letter Box for now so that we have enough room. Happy 4th to our American readers and Happy Canada Day to our neighbors to the North! Have a safe and happy celebration!
"Patriotism On Parade"
by Nancy Julien Kopp
The hotel ballroom buzzed with music, conversation, and laughter. Military dress uniforms and ball gowns added to the festive air of the evening. My husband, Ken, and I were the only civilians out of more than four hundred attending the 2004 Kodiak Ball honoring the 70th Engineer Battalion. The men and women in the battalion, stationed at Ft. Riley, Kansas, returned only weeks earlier after serving a full year in Iraq. On this night, they gathered with spouses and dates to celebrate their homecoming, their survival, and the joy of being an American.
The soldiers requested that our church send someone to receive thanks and appreciation for the support of one company within the battalion, and we were pleased to be the representatives from St. Luke's Lutheran Church. The congregation adopted Charlie Company upon their deployment in March of 2003. For the year they served in Iraq, members of the church mailed letters, birthday cards, and packages to the men who soon became "our soldiers." We sent Christmas cards to the nearly one hundred members of Charlie Company, kept them in our prayers, and eagerly waited news about them. Members dropped monetary donations into a pair of shiny Army boots placed in the narthex of the church. The money allowed items like socks and other necessities along with some little touches of home like gum and candies to be shipped overseas. A line of love and pride between the members of the church and the soldiers grew strong and steady as the year progressed.
Tonight both the battalion commander and commander of Charlie Company greeted us. They clasped our hands and thanked us for all the support they'd received. Both men spoke with sincerity that was further mirrored in their eyes and warm handshake. From then on, other soldiers and spouses approached us, introduced themselves as members of Charlie Company, and offered us heartfelt thanks and appreciation for all the church members had done for them. One officer remarked, "We expect support from our families, but when it comes from perfect strangers, it means a great deal to us." Another commented that the caring and concern shown them seemed almost overwhelming at times, but it made their job easier knowing people at home supported them.
With each introduction and conversation, my pride in our country and the men who served in her armed forces grew steadily stronger. I marveled at the many men and women who volunteered to serve their country. No draft board tapped them on the shoulder and handed them marching orders. These soldiers chose to serve with a pride, love, and belief in America.
The evening provided many emotional moments including a Table Of Remembrance ceremony to honor fallen comrades. The ballroom lights dimmed, and a spotlight centered on a table set for one. A soldier's solemn voice related the symbolism of each item on the table in a somber tribute. A moment of silence followed, a moment needed by many to swallow the lump in the throat and wipe away a fallen tear.
Two movie screens placed at opposite sides of the ballroom flashed pictures of the 70th Engineer Battalion going about their everyday jobs in Iraq. Poignant as well as humorous moments captured on film showed a side of the military not often reported in newspapers. These were Americans who had a sensitive side, could put a comic slant on serious moments, and portrayed a fine work ethic learned in various parts of America during their growing-up years.
After dinner, the battalion commander asked Ken and I to come forward to accept a framed Certificate of Appreciation for the church. The soldiers offered us a standing ovation. We returned to our table with cheers and applause ringing in our ears. Never have I felt so much appreciation, warmth, and pleasure.
No matter what one feels about the right or wrong of the war in Iraq, be proud of the men and women who answered the call and represent America. They are your sons and daughters, your brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews. Support them in every possible way. This memorable evening spent in the company of the men and women in the 70th Engineer Battalion ensured my continued support and strengthened my pride in America.
Nancy Julien Kopp copyright 2004 Kopp@networksplus.net
Nancy is wife, mother, and grandmother. She draws from her growing up years in Chicago and many years of living in the Flint Hills of Kansas for the stories, poems, and essays she writes. Her work has been published in both children and adult magazines as well as many online e-zines. She was elected Writer of the Month at 2theheart and has several stories in the archives. Included are "Grandma and The Tea Party", "Love On A Plate", "The Girls On The Bus", "To Touch A Child", "To Celebrate A Life", "My Little Chinese Angel", "My Second Home", "In One Corner Of My Heart", "Blessings In The Morning", "Sorting Out A Lifetime", and also many poems.
"See You When I Get Back"
I stood there, fighting the tears that wanted to slide down my cheeks. I tried to be strong. I tried to not let him know how I felt. I looked around me and saw so many others, hugging, crying, saying good-bye.
He hugged me that one last hug, lifted my chin up in his hand, looked me in the eye and said, "I'll come back home. Don't worry. I'll be ok. I promise." I watched as he walked into the plane. I stood at the window of the airport, trying to see if I could see him, if he got a window seat on the side of the plane I was facing. I didn't see him. The engines roared and the plane started backing up, my heart started beating in my chest, and I silently said a prayer, "Please God, bring him back home to me again."
It was 1968. A war was raging in Viet Nam. I was a military wife. I knew when I married him it was going to be hard. I just didn't realize HOW hard, how tough it would be to hold down the home front, continue to work and try and save a few dollars. I knew many others whose husbands came home, in a box. I was standing with another wife when a messenger came to her door and told her that her husband was killed in action. I can never forget her screams as she cried out "No, NO." I always prayed I would never get that message.
This was my life during Viet Nam. I lived with fear, prayer, and more fear daily. There were no care packages, I never knew where he was going to be. There were letters, but they came seldom, sometimes once in three months. We had no children, and that was by choice in those days. It was hard enough on the adults, I saw no reason to bring a child into the world and only have one parent to raise him or her.
I was one of the lucky ones. My husband came home safely. But thousands never returned to their families. Today, families are facing fear as I once did. Children are missing their fathers and mothers. Parents are missing their children. War is hard. Freedom has a price.
May we never forget our servicemen and women who are sacrificing the ultimate sacrifice for all of us. If you know someone who has a child, parent or spouse overseas, give them a hug and tell them you are praying for them. It would mean the world to them.
God Bless Our Military
And God Bless America