Veterans’ Day has always been special to me. Perhaps it is because I was born in April of 1944 close to the end of World War II, or because the Vietnam War left its mark on all the men in my family. All I know is that I cry at the sight of an American flag marching by, or the sound of our rousing National Anthem being played or sung. Here, in this military community of Ft. Sill, every day is ended with the lowering of the flag and the playing of Taps. At 72 years, these things still cause a flood of emotions to well up inside my chest.
I grew up watching the Hollywood movies about World War II and the Korean Conflict. It was a monologue cutting from such a movie that earned my first A+ in drama class: a young wife waited every day for the mail to be delivered so she would hear from her soldier husband…only to receive the notification that he was killed in action. Many in the audience cried with me as I portrayed the gut-wrenching scene.
How different it was to actually live that type of emotion in a war situation! I will never forget the night my son-in-law came to say goodbye to our family and his new son before he and my daughter left for Ft. Sill where he met his battery of soldiers to depart for Desert Storm. I cried as he told that little baby how much he loved him. My heart ached as we each hugged him goodbye and told him to stay safe. We each then played the waiting game I had dramatized years before as part of a high school assignment.
The reality was that our son in law had to risk travel in the desert at night to reach a place from which a satellite call could be sent so Michelle could inform the wives of his soldiers that all were still well and alive. She had the added task of asking wives not to send “Dear John” letters to their husbands and boyfriends while they were deployed. In summary, it was a very emotional time in our lives. Although our son in law lived through at least four war deployments, it was never easy.
I am a devoted fan of our veterans, and their families, and pray daily for their safety. I salute them for their sacrifice and courage in serving the missions set forth by our government. And most of all, I salute my son in law, J.T. Smith, who truly was and remains an “officer and a gentleman!”