Acknowledge the wounds we can’t heal
With precision and purpose they folded the flag he fought to protect. With compassion and gratitude it was presented to me at his funeral.
There weren’t but a handful of us at dad’s funeral service. It was a rainy, dreary day which only added to my sadness, although it wouldn’t have mattered if the sun had been out with perfect weather. The veteran volunteers from the American Legion stood in the rain as they played taps and shot a three-volley salute. They didn’t know dad or my family, but continue to serve their country by offering these services for one of their own.
The entire military service was conducted with such meaning and emotion it touched all of us in a different way. For me it was a final goodbye to dad, but even more than that, the chance to truly respect what he sacrificed during his time in the military, and maybe even throughout his life. All of the hardships, burdens, worries and wounds don’t just disappear the minute the military releases those from service, as they give much more than we will ever know or understand.
The pastor who spoke at dad’s service talked about what his state of mind must have been during his tenure in the military. There were many times during my childhood and young adult years, I didn’t understand dad, but come to find out, he may not have even understood himself.
What kind of mental strain did dad endure thinking every day might be his last as he strapped himself into an airplane to begin another bombing mission? As a bombardier, and a young man with his whole life ahead of him, what repercussions would come from knowingly dropping bombs on cities and towns full of people he knew would be killed or injured?
Growing up I didn’t realize how much of an impact his time in the military had on his life except for when he learned my brother had enlisted in the Marines during the Vietnam War. It must have been agonizing for dad, knowing firsthand what his son was going to have to endure while counting down the days until he could come home.
Many of the decisions dad made over his lifetime weren’t popular with the family and I’m sure at times he felt as though no one could understand why he did the things he did. I’m fortunate to have had the privilege to listen to his history unfold as he reminisced so often of his military days. Eventually his mind became too weak to stay strong and he’d cry over his guilt of having to do a job he didn’t want to do.
My daughter bought me a box for dad’s flag and shell casings and it’s an honor to have been given this remembrance of his service. He holds a special place in my heart as my dad, but also, as my hero.
Thanking our veterans is the least we can do as we carry on in our busy lives, taking our freedom for granted, as they continue to fight their own battles. Maybe a true thanks for our veterans would be acknowledging those wounds we can’t heal and loving them anyway.
Sandy Turner lives in Independence, Missouri. Email her at email@example.com