J.D. ZUMWALT: We Should All Honor Those Whose Loved Ones Serve
If you have a loved one who serves in our military, you may consider choosing the option of not reading this.
No, there are no surprises here -- not for you. The concern is that these words, written with the deepest reverence, may cause pain rather than bestow the honor that is intended.
There are those among us who hate soldiers, do not like Marines, hope never to have to speak to a sailor and would be insulted if a person in the uniform of the Air Force or Coast Guard were to have the audacity to sit beside them on an airplane. Thankfully, the citizens of Moore County are overwhelmingly supportive of the men and women who protect our great nation, but it is not that way everywhere in our country.
Most of us admire and respect those in uniform. Still, there is another group that deserves our thanks. Their role is just as important, and their agony is often greater than those who go to war to protect us. Yet they mostly bear their sorrow -- mixed with a burst of pride -- alone. I am speaking of those among us who watch their loved ones leave home to serve in uniform.
Most parents are extremely apprehensive when the moment arrives in which their child will be away from home overnight for the first time. No matter how excited a child might be about the event, to the parent it represents a whole new era. It represents one more step in the child's march toward independence. It represents a time when the parents will not be beside them to protect them.
Imagine the distress of watching a child, spouse, parent, brother, sister or other loved one walk away as they leave to serve our nation in uniform. From the very first moment they enter training it is a time of anguish for the family.
Do not confuse these words. What could make one more proud than watching someone you love take the oath of service and don the uniform worn by those who defend our nation? Tears brought on by pride mix with those caused by concern and run down faces of loved ones who stay behind to support the warriors who protect us.
What must it be like to say goodbye to one you love as he or she goes off to war? How can one imagine the anxiety a soldier's parent experiences watching scenes of carnage on the streets of Iraq during the hourly news updates? Can you imagine the feelings of a spouse trying hard not to learn too much about what is happening on the battlefield in Afghanistan and yet afraid not to -- for fear of missing news of a loved one?
Sadly, there is also a third category that must be mentioned, those who have lost loved ones in war.
The horror of a death that comes too soon is unimaginable for the survivors. The reality of losing loved ones to the savagery of war is a punishment borne by the undeserving innocent who remains behind to grieve.
How do you shake a nightmare that comes even when you are awake? How do you keep your mind from visiting the hellish scenes made more awful by the imagination of those who will always wonder about their loved ones' last moments?
We give medals and parades for those who keep us safe, and we should. We honor them with ceremonies, and they deserve to be honored. Hopefully no one will ever be allowed to serve our nation again without knowing he or she is deeply appreciated. Please don't forget the ones who stay behind and truly do give all. Maybe we are not capable of sharing their feelings, but we can let them know we appreciate them.
As long as the United States of America has existed, families have waved goodbye to departing troops. Thanking these family members and sincerely letting them know we appreciate their sacrifice means a lot. We should all try to do just that.
J.D. Zumwalt can be reached at email@example.com.
More like this story