On Sunday, Veterans Day, we do well to reflect on the war that has been set before us and on those who serve.
What follows is a story from a dear friend. His son is a soldier, who has been deployed in the war on terrorism. The words are especially poignant, because they speak for thousands of mothers and fathers and husbands and wives who are today anxiously waiting for word from their loved ones.
It both ends and begins with a phone call from his son.
“Hey, Dad ... Just got the word that we’re moving out, pronto. Like we talked before, it’ll be a while before I can call again. I love you. Don’t worry about me. Put Mom on for a sec, will you?”
It’s the end of the waiting for military orders. The end of hope that they don’t come. The end of uncertainty about deployment. He’s going.
The end is bad, but the beginning is worse. It’s the beginning of long months of silence. Long nights of worry. Watch the news. Search the internet. Wait for the phone to ring ... but it doesn’t.
He might be in Turkmenistan, or Uzbekistan, or a dozen other countries I didn’t know existed before Sept. 11. I knew it might happen. After all, this is what he was trained for. He’s a soldier. I know he’s proud to do his duty. And I’m proud of him.
I hug my wife and tell her he’s going to be okay, but we need something more to cling to. Lord, give him strength. Lord protect him. Still, I have to focus. I have to keep on living, despite the hollow numbness in the pit of my stomach.
My boy’s gone to war.
I’ve been there, but I’ve never been here. I’ve been the one to go to war, but not the one left behind ... to wait ... to worry ... to wonder. I didn’t want this for him.
Only yesterday he was a little kid pleading for me to go outside and play ball. Today he’s a man doing his duty, defending his nation.
He’s special to me, but really no different from thousands of others — your sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, friends and neighbors. They’re all doing their duty, leaving their homes, leaving their families to fight an enemy who wears no uniform, swears allegiance to no country, and recognizes no rules of war.
America’s troops may be gone for weeks, even months or years. Some may never come home, yet all will be with their family. Not blood relatives — not mom and dad — but with other young men and women with whom they serve in the military uniform of our country. Come what may, none will fail those with whom they serve.
They are today’s “Private Ryans” and “Band of Brothers.” Their platoons, air wings and ship’s companies are their families, their brothers and sisters.
Each has pledged his life and entrusted his safety to the other. All have forged a sacred bond that will last a lifetime, a bond none can understand except those who share it.
We are praying as a family, because, in a very real sense, every soldier, sailor, marine, airman and coast guardsman is a part of our family —the American Legion family — and we love them all and we’re proud of them.
No words are sufficient to describe our national sense of resolve or our collective feeling of concern for those young ones who have gone into harm’s way on our behalf. Instead, let us pray to the God of us all that we gain victory and rejoice in the safe return of our family.
Nonetheless, let us also pray that His will be done, and that He give us the strength to bear it — be it sorrow or rejoicing.
God has blessed America with much bounty and many fine men and women through the years who have risked their lives and given them to preserve our liberty and our way of life.
So today let this be our prayer, as in ages past, God Bless America.
(Dr. David F. Russell of Spotsylvania, Va., is national chaplain of the 2.8 million-member American Legion, the nations largest veterans organization.)