In the U.S., we remember all the men and women who gave their lives in war on Memorial Day.
Whether or not you’re American, and whether (American or not) you agree with the decisions and tactics of our military, I’m sure you understand the feeling of patriotism and pride in the origins of culture and country. The gratitude we have for those who have sacrificed to give us life.
I’m somewhat ashamed to say that although I’ve always participated in the general “thankful” activities (parades, picnics, parties), it’s sometimes easy to forget why we have the day off. This time, Memorial Day was a bit different.
This weekend, a young man in our church sang Mark Schultz’s “Letters from War.” I first heard LFW years ago, during the heat of battle in Iraq. Tension levels soared at home as we daily heard of the deaths of soldiers from many different countries.
Both of my brothers signed up for the National Guard a few months before the tragedy of 9/11 (at the time, I was under the impression the National Guard stayed in-country to Guard the Nation, but my misunderstanding became evident as young women and men deployed). They went to Iraq and Afghanistan. Due to a bombing, we had no word from one of my brothers for far too long. I heard this song while we waited for confirmation he lived.
“Letters From War”She walked to the mailbox
On that bright summers day
Found a letter from her son
In a war far away
He spoke of the weather
And good friends that he’d made
Said “I’d been thinking ’bout dad
And the life that he had
That’s why I’m here today”
And at the end he said
“You are what I’m fighting for”
It was the first of the letters from war
She started writing
“You’re good and you’re brave
What a father that you’ll be someday
make it home
make it safe”
She wrote every night as she prayed
Late in December
A day she’ll not forget
Oh her tears stained the paper
With every word that she read
It said “I was up on a hill
I was out there alone
When the shots all rang out
And bombs were exploding
And that’s when I saw him
He came back for me
And though he was captured
A man set me free
And that man was your son
He asked me to write to you
I told him I would, oh I swore”
It was the last of the letters from war
And she prayed he was living
Kept on believing
And wrote every night just to say
“You are good
And you’re brave
what a father that you’ll be someday
Make it home
Make it safe”
Still she kept writing each day
Then two years later
Autumn leaves all around
A car pulled in the driveway
And she fell to the ground
And out stepped a captain
Where her boy used to stand
He said, “Mom, I’m following orders
From all of your letters
And I’ve come home again”,
He ran in to hold her
And dropped all his bags on the floor
Holding all of her letters from war
Bring him home
Bring him home
Bring him home
I don’t think I need to explain the emotion this song created the first time I heard it. This Sunday as I sat in church, the emotion, unexpected and encompassing, crashed over me like an ocean wave. I’d forgotten the absolute agony of not knowing. Of being almost certain our last goodbye was exactly that.
This Memorial Day brought that memory, sharp and vivid, slamming into me. I couldn’t stop the tears. Our son, always concerned when I’m anything but happy, asked in stage-whisper, “are you crying, Mama?” I wrote him a note on a napkin fast becoming soaked.
“The first time I heard this song, we didn’t know if your uncle was alive. It reminded me of that feeling and also made me very thankful that both your uncles came home, safe. Happy tears.”
He nodded and snuggled into my side, taking my hand and wrapping my arm around his shoulders. I closed my eyes and thanked God for the freedom to sit with my family in any church I choose, for the freedom of others to do the same—and for the freedom not to attend, if they prefer. The freedom to speak freely, to write my opinion with no fear of repercussion. The freedom to give, to love, to serve. The freedom to tell the truth.
I thanked God my brothers came home safe.
And prayed for the families whose brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, mothers and fathers did not return.
Regardless of where you live or your country of origin, someone has sacrificed for you. Let’s keep the memory alive for more than one day.
I want to live a Memorial Life.
Posted on May 25, 2015, in Military, Writing is fun and tagged 9/11, Afghanistan, death, Iraq, Letters from War, life, Mark Schultz, Memorial Day, National Guard, sacrifice, soldier, soldiers, war. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.