Well, my son made it home safely from the sandbox and I am deeply grateful. A lot has happened between the time he left and made it back home, more than I really thought. One daughter started Kindergarten, the other two had birthdays that came and went. His birthday came and went as well as mine and his brothers. A milestone birthday for my youngest who turned 18. His cousin got married, his dad got remarried, my son re-enlisted for another 5 years, life continued on in our part of the world.
This time around he had the homecoming that he should have had the first time and even though he thought he did not deserve it, he was very happy when all was said and done. This got me thinking, because he told me, prior to coming home this time, that he felt he was not a hero in any way, shape, or form. He feels that what he is doing is nothing spectacular or special in any way. He has a humble heart.
He didn’t understand at first, why we wanted to have a party for him, even when I told him that many people feel that all of our military men and women are doing something special. It wasn’t until he saw how many people were there at the airport (even those on the flight waited for him when they saw us) and then at the house waiting for him, that he finally understood that he meant so much to so many. He also understood that it was not just for him, it was for all of us as well. The family, friends, neighbors, veterans, other mothers came because their own child is not here right now. The hugs he got from the veterans and that he received from other military family members showed him that not only was he missed, but that each one of those who were there, who were hugging him were, in essence, hugging their own brother, son, cousin, uncle, etc., again, through him.
So what got me thinking so hard was the fact that my 18-year-old didn’t understand either. Mind you, my children were brought up knowing of previous wars but they never knew anyone really close to them who had served recently. My father, although he served in WWII, passed away when they were young so they don’t really remember him. Their dad’s father does not speak of the Korean War at all to them. So I had to explain to my youngest that those who showed up, many of them Vietnam Veterans, did not have a homecoming of the sort that we were planning. I had to explain the state of mind of many during that era to him and he finally understood. What also struck me, was that my soldier son did not think he deserved this! My goodness, last time he was home he told me a story about a sniper and hearing me call out his voice when he was running like hell and when he turned, surprised to hear me calling out his name in the middle of the day, in another country, that he had a bullet go whizzing by his ear! That’s why we made such a deal out of this homecoming!!! He was able to get off of a plane and hug us --- we were the lucky ones.
The realization of how important he is to so many came to him a little later in the day, but at least it came to him. He hugged me and marveled at all those who were there. His brothers in arms, his military family, showed up in force to greet him and I know that it swelled him with pride to be a part of such a large, loving family. Believe me, our own family is not small by any means, but this was something new to him. These were men and women who were also able to make it home under dire circumstances, who came to greet him. He was so honored.
We have spoken about others, however, who don’t have homecomings like this if any at all. It’s not that they are forgotten, it’s not that no one cares, it’s the fact that there is not much publicity about their coming home sometimes. I myself have been talking about it for about two months! I understand the fact that we cannot announce deployment dates, troop movements, etc., but our men and women need to know that we stand behind and beside them 100% and this is something that is slowly being realized by the general public. Many families don’t know about the Patriot Guard Riders escorts, or how their local Veteran’s Associations will provide a color guard if they are able. My eyes were opened a little bit wider when I realized that one of our own Blue Star Moms son had no homecoming a couple of years ago when he arrived either. She wasn’t aware of organizations that assisted with homecomings until our first meeting a couple of weeks ago. Which is my point, if my own son doesn’t think he did anything special, how can we get the point across to the general public that he and many others before him and those standing next to him in battle are special to us here at home?
I know there are many groups out there, but if there isn’t a Blue Star Mothers group in your area to meet with, then start one if you’re a mom. There wasn’t one in my area so I started one. Volunteer with them, get involved. Be at as many homecomings as you can. If you have a few extra hours a week, spend it volunteering with Wounded Warriors at a VA Hospital or at your local Veterans Association. Involve your local community in the achievements of those in the military through your local newspapers. There are so many ways to show you care and it does not always have to be monetary. You don’t have to always be over 18 to help. I have a scrapbook that I am doing for my son of his time in the military, you can show up and take pictures of homecomings and send them to the family for their scrapbook; write a letter to a soldier; be a penpal to a family friend in the service; get your school organized to send packages overseas; contact your local Veterans group and ask what you can do to help. Anything you do will be greatly appreciated.
Because if we don’t let them know now how much we care, if we don’t get the word out, if we don’t write down their stories, who will?