Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved this country to the point of tears more than once a week. Military service has been a part of our family history on both sides, and on my father’s side, I have Word War 1 and Confederate discharge papers (don’t judge…I coulda lied and told you they were Union…). I freakin’ love our military service members.
Any time I see a serviceman or woman in uniform, I make sure the children all thank them. We visit their graves on Memorial Day and we lay wreaths at Christmas time on our heroes headstones. We pray for them vigilantly every night. And every opportunity we have to share a meal with a soldier, we take hospitality to a whole ‘nuther level. It’s the least we can do.
So when I saw a special opportunity to honor our military families over Valentine’s Day, I leapt at the chance.
A Gold Star Mother is a woman who has lost her child through the service of our military. These brave young men and women may have been lost on the battle field or lost the battle to PTSD by committing suicide. Operation Love Letter is an event every Valentine’s Day where Gold Star Moms and Dads as well as surviving spouses and children can gather together to commemorate their loved ones. One such event was being held in Orlando this year, and I quickly decided we would be going.
A good friend of mine has a daughter that attends Jupiter Christian School. This mother explained to her child’s first grade teachers that she wanted some Valentine’s for these special moms written by the children in the class. Armed with loads of precious love letters from grateful children, we drove three hours north to Orlando and arrived unexpected at a gathering of about 50 people.
Parents and children were writing love notes to their departed family members. As the organizer of the event looked questioningly at my crew, I took a moment during her break in the ceremonies to tell her who we were and why we had come. She held back tears and asked if I would take the mic.
What an honor to be given an opportunity with all my children and my husband to thank these precious families for their sacrifices. I told them that their loss was Not for Nothin’.
I explained that we had driven three hours with a busload of kiddos to tell them that we appreciate our freedom and realize that it was bought at a price.
I let them know that we are raising an army of grateful children who would honor their loss by making good with their lives.
I told them about all my Believe With Me families that were praying for them, especially my morning Bible study girls!
And I promised them something I believe with my whole heart…that this country’s brightest days are still head of her and that the loss of their child inspires us to reach for greater in our life, with and for our children, and for our country. It’s Not for Nothin’.
Then we got busy about our job hugging, passing out Valentines, encouraging and crying with them. We held hands, sat together and listened to the stories about their children.
One of the boys loved Pop Tarts. It was the one thing his mama could send him and she knew it was a special treat that he could enjoy with his entire platoon. In his last conversation, his commanding officer reached over during the heat of a firefight with the enemy and said, “Hey man, how ya doin’?” “I’m alright,” he replied. “I’m just a little hungry…”
And BLAM. He was shot. Dead.
His mother still cries thinking that her boy died hungry.
I’ll never look at a Pop Tart the same way again.
One kid loved peach cobbler. He was blown up by an IED. His mother still makes his favorite meal and desert every year on the anniversary of his death. I won’t forget that every time I see peach cobbler on the menu and I’ll eat it heartily in remembrance of him.
Another mother got up and said boldly, “Y’all stop sayin’ they WAS this and they WAS that! They still IS. They ain’t here but our boys IS with us right NOW!” A hearty AMEN rose up from the crowd and more tears were shed.
One mama just walked up to me looking for love. I held her for more than 5 minutes. She melted into me and kept whispering, “Don’t let me go…don’t let me go…”
And so I didn’t. She had heartbreak after heartbreak in her life since her son died…and here is where the real tragedy just begins.
Folks, for every warrior lost, the effect on their family is not just heartbreaking, it is catastrophic. In speaking with those in leadership of the Gold Star Mothers Veteran’s Service Organization, they willingly confess that many times the loss of the soldier is just the beginning of the unraveling of a family. Many of the Gold Star Moms related this in their stories. After the death of their child through the war or the after effects of PTSD, the family was plagued with chronic illnesses, depression, cancer, further tragedy with other siblings or the surviving spouse. Not to mention their grandchildren being diagnosed with all kinds of traumatic disorders.
So when you see the death of one soldier, please recognize that their death many times is just the beginning of that family’s train completely derailing. Very few families sustain such pain without depression, divorce, and illnesses of various kinds following close behind.
So pray for our military. I don’t give a FLIP how you feel about the war, these servicemen and women need your encouragement and prayers. On Memorial day, attend a service. During the holidays, attend a Wreaths Across America event and give honor. And in the name of Jesus, take the opportunity you have to raise up the next generation to honor the freedom provided for them by the blood of Christ and that of over 1.3 million patriots.