Let me tell you a story of a man I know. I’m sure he has a name; everyone has a name. It could be Robert, Tom, Jimmy or even Phil but everyone just calls him Grandpa. Everybody in this small town knows him. He can fix anything with just a can of WD-40 and a Craftsman wrench. Need your field mowed; Grandpa will show up with his tractor. Times get lean and Grandpa will show up with eggs, a chicken and a bag of veggie from the garden. And would you please help him out cause the damn chickens are laying too much and the garden is producing more then he can use.
Grandpa is getting long in the tooth and I’ve never seen him out of those beat up shore boots, jeans and that old beat to hell hat he wears. At his age he never expected to be raising a child again but here he is raising his 4-year-old grandson.
Grandpa calls me up one day asking for a ride to the airport. I arrive early because he taught me if you’re on time your late. He was still getting dressed as I just walked in. He was just slipping his shirt on over his Airborne tattoo. I’ve seen it before, but he doesn’t talk about it. It’s like him old and faded but you can still make out the 173rd Airborne. I stop and stare because I’ve never seen him in a suit before. “Shut your hole”, he says, “you’re catching flies. These are my travel clothes.” As I pull away from the airport I wonder where he and his small grandson are going, but I was raised better than to ask. If he wanted me to know he would have told me so.
He boards first with his grandson and settles down into First class. He removes his jacket, rolls up his sleeves and loosens his collar and holds his grandson in his lap. Others enter and look at him. An old man, long grey hair in a pony tail and a small child in his lap. Some stare, some just look and some nod respectfully seeing his tattoo.
The flight attendant comes by offering drinks and snacks. She asks his grandson where he is going today. The child answers excitingly that Grandpa is taking him to see his daddy. The attendant smiles and brings the child some milk and strong black coffee for Grandpa. The attendant asks if his son lives in Maryland. Grandpa says, “No. My son is with my men in Virginia.” They got a nice plot of land out there and someday that’s where he’d like to settle down.
The flight lands and they take a taxi. They first stop at the Mall in DC. Grandpa walks, holding the child’s hand to the Wall. The child asks, “Is this where my Daddy is Grandpa?” There are tears in his eyes as he picks up his grandson and holds him tight. He whisper, “No, he’s not here” as a tear rolls down his face. The child in his arms kisses the tear from his grandfather’s weathered face saying, “There I made it all, better didn’t I?” Yes, yes you did.
Another taxi ride and the child stares out the window as it rolls through the big gates and past perfectly manicure lawns. They get out and walk across those laws with their rows upon rows of simple white markers that seem to stretch for as far as the eye can see. They stop at one and stand before it. The child is silent. His Grandpa taught him not to interrupt when adults are speaking. Grandpa looks at the stone and says, “Son, I’ve brought your son today so he can meet his father.” The boy looks at his Grandpa and ask is this where my Daddy is? Grandpa kneels beside the boy and says, “Yes, this is where your daddy is. You see, your daddy was a soldier, like I was. He left you to go fight a war because his county said they needed him. Your daddy died but he was a hero and this place is where our country lays our heroes to rest. But your daddy won’t be lonely for he is surrounded by thousands of other heroes. Why just over that hill are all my friends. They were heroes too.” The little boy asks why his daddy had to be a hero. His grandfather thinks for a moment, takes the child’s hands in his and says, “Your Daddy didn’t have to be a hero. He didn’t want to be a hero. None of the mommies and daddies here wanted to be heroes either. He just wanted to love and stay with you, but sometimes loving and protecting someone requires daddies to do what they don’t want to do. You know what we do when that coyote gets into the hen house, right? How we hunt him down so that all the other hens can live without worrying about the coyote coming back? The little boy just nods with tears in his eyes. Well that’s what your daddy did. There were some bad men that wanted to hurt good people and your daddy and a lot of other daddies and mommies had to leave to protect their children from the coyotes. Sometime when you stand for what is right and just it take a big sacrifice.
The little boy sniffs mightily and looks deep into his grandfathers’ eyes and says “When I grow up, I’m going to be like you and Daddy. I’m going to protect you from bad men and coyotes.” Grandpa hugs the little boy and says a pray to God and country to not let his grandson be a hero.
This is the price some are willing to pay for Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness” some have taken for granted. On May 27th this country will observe Memorial Day. The day set aside to remember our fallen and what they stood for..the ideals they died for. This Memorial Day I ask you to take a minute from your backyard BBQs and day at the beach to just hug your family and friends. Get to your knees and pray to what ever God you hold sacred for wisdom and understanding. Wisdom and understanding to know that others died to fulfill the promise of America for you.
These men and women stood against things some are throwing around like candy at a parade these days. They stood against racism and bigotry in places like Normandy, Rwanda, the Balkans, Iraq, and Afghanistan. They stood for the right to worship God as you want without the fear of persecution and death. They stood for the right to speak your mind against the government. The stood for what it means to be an American.
America, I task you. Yes, task you and hope you can overcome what I see you becoming these days. I task you to stop the bickering, stop the persecution of your neighbors. Stop being Republican and Democrats before you tear this country apart. Memorial Day is a day of remembrance. Stop and remember what it means to be an American. Perhaps you should re-read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution for which these brave men and woman cherished so much they were willing to lay their lives down so future generation would have them and cherish them as they did. Do Not Let These Men And Women Have Died In Vain!