Friday, October 10, 2008

A Soldier in my Home

One of the furnace guys and I got to chatting yesterday afternoon. When I first looked at him, I figured him to be in his 50s. I don't know how old he was, but he mentioned Iraq. I asked if he was in Desert Storm. Nope, he got back last summer and went with my town's National Guard unit.

He wanted to go. He wanted to go because he was higher up in rank, but he wanted to be with his fellow guardsmen. He volunteered.

He told me he arrived in spring, before it was too hot. That helped his unit acclimate to the conditions there.

He didn't talk about what he did, and I didn't pry. But I did say two words to him: Thank you. He smiled, and he knew my sentiments were heartfelt.

Ever since my Dad was at the VA in Colorado, where he passed away, I just developed a bigger respect for our men and women in the armed services. It's not that I didn't respect them before, but being there enabled me to see, to feel, to experience something on a different level. And there were no Iraq vets there. It was old timers: Viet Nam vets, Korean War vets, and a few WWII vets.

I was very proud that our government took such good care of these men and women. I told the furnace-guy that.

I then asked him a very personal question. I asked him which presidential candidate would be better for the troops, the war and for our vets. As I suspected, it was not McCain. That was no surprise to me. It is unusual for where I live, though-- there are McCain/Palin signs everywhere. I don't think I've even seen an Obama sign in any yard in my town.

While I do not support this war, I do support our troops. I also support our vets. My time spent in that VA where Dad passed taught me so much.

They did something very special for Dad when he died, and they do this for all the vets that pass there. After I visited him after his passing, I had to go do paperwork at the front desk of the hospital. It took awhile. On the way to the desk, I passed the special gurney rolling down the hall, and I knew what it was and where it was going. It wasn't an ordinary gurney.

As I was at the desk, I heard my oldest sister proclaim, "Well, I don't need to see that" in disgust and horror. I turned and watched. What for her was awful, was one of the proudest moments in my life.

There was that special gurney, and Dad's nurse was pushing it. I knew it was my deceased father. What made the moment proud, though, was he was covered in the American flag. If death can be beautiful, that was. I was proud of him, for his service to our country decades before. I was proud of my government for taking such good care of him. They gave him a death of dignity.

It was beautiful.

My other sister was gracious enough to give me that flag. I cherish it.

I felt honored to have a soldier in my home (even though having him here three days was a bit unsettling!) It did remind me, though, that he wasn't the first soldier to be in my home. Dad visited here, as did Bob's dad, who was an MP during WWII.

Thank you, to all the men and women, who are serving and have served for our country.


The Mom said...

My Grandfather and his brothers were all WW2 vets. I am very involved with the local Legion here and Kiddo and I do a weekly "meals on wheels" as well as volunteering work at the Legion. Kiddo has become quite a fixture there - he is currently learning to play crib with a particular group of old timers who seemed to have taken a liking to him. They call him their "littlest soldier". While I don't ever want to see him go off to war, I know I would be no less proud if he donned a Canadian Forces uniform. Blessings to those who remember those who have fought and continue to fight for our freedoms.

audrey said...

I don't care for the people who pretend to run the US military, but I respected my dad and people like him who served with integrity.

I thought I'd held it all together very well at Dad's funeral. We got to the graveside and I was thinking... I can do this.

But, then the honour guard took that flag off of his coffin ... and I just lost it. Every fold was more permanence that he was so very, very gone. When they handed it to my brother, I could see his hands trembling... trying not to fall apart.

Funny how no matter how far you remove yourself from being a military kid... it comes back to find the heart of you.

rae said...

Frankie, what an excellent post. This is such a complex issue for me. My dad is 80, a Korean War vet, a VA patient with serious health issues, and a die-hard Republican. He is an active member of the American Legion who presents the flag to families at military funerals. There is something so special about that flag.

I am not a Republican, so it is nice to see a vet who understands that there is a difference between patriotism and conservatism. I know there are many, but my first hand experience with my father is quite the opposite. For him, questioning a war is questioning the validity of HIS service.

Gah. Rambling. Sorry. Again - excellent post!

Frankie said...

the mom: I think it's wonderful you do volunteering, and that your son has become a fixture. What an oppotunity for him.

Audrey: At Dad's graveside service, the flag got all of us crying. It was one of the Marine's first funeral. He botched the folding of the flag. I was snickering on the inside because we practice and practiced doing that in Cub Scouts, and I saw what he was doing wrong.

I had such deep emotion for him, because I could see he was dying on the inside. The more flustered he became, the redder his face got. It didn't annoy any of us, we all felt great compassion for him. He disappeared immediately and we couldn't thank him. I know he'll always remember my Dad's funeral.

After he disappeared, the other Marine fixed the flag.

When the bugler played Taps...oh my gosh, the tears poured.

When Thomas went to summer camp, he said that hey played Taps at lights out every night and it made him so sad. Poor kid.

rae: My dad was a life-long democrat. He was a union man, and fought for the underdog. He was against this war from the very beginning. I was actually shocked by that. However, he was extremely supportive of the troops.

I can see how your Dad would take questioning on a personal level. I get that.

You might laugh at this, but I must say it. Even though my Dad was a life-long democrat, he was a registered reupblican. Why? Because he wanted to see what the other side was up to. What a riot he was.

I am neither a republican nor democrat. I'm a moderate and will vote for whomever I feel is the best choice.

I support the Democratic ticket for the presidential election. Obama gets my vote. My priorities are the war, the economy, and health care.

Red said...

I had a mom of a Marine ask I could support our troops but not the war...heeellloo?

I do not think we need to be in someone else's country telling them how to run their country, I do not think we would want some foreign presence here, telling us what to do.

Kate in NJ said...

My Grandfather's funeral was the same for me...I will never forget them folding the flag....all of my Uncles also served, and it always moved me, but not like that. He was not a McCain fan, and a lifelong Dem.
He was very involved in our local AMVETS and the state organization named the post after him when he passed. My brother in law is currently serving, although now back from Afghanistan, and we are not supporters of the war, but fervently support our troops!