“The real problem is not that we are different, nor that we disagree and have conflict. It's that most of us automatically view conflict as something negative rather than as a tool God can use to help us better understand ourselves and one another.

--Robert Ricciardelli”

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Lessons In Honor

On October 22, 2006, I posted a message on the passing of Marine LCpl Manoukian. Rest assured, the prayer in that post (and every other In Memorium I write) is one we pray regularly for the families of the fallen. Just some simple words I wrote once—and could not think of a better way to write. Quite honestly, I copy and paste those words to each fallen soldier I mention on my blog.

Frankly, I’ve been struggling with posting things on fallen soldiers. I started doing it because of notes I read at Blackfive and Castle Argghhh. Mostly, I struggle with only being able to mention some of them. I began feeling it was wrong to mention some and not others. Another struggle is: how do I decide who to post on and who do I not. There are the soldiers I read about in the local paper. And, there are those I hear about on the national news, or read about on other blogs. How and where do you draw the line? Generally, I have no problem with posting on those listed at Any Soldier. I’ve spent two years sending packages and letters. In many ways, the troops who are signed up on that program are family. I don’t catch them all. But, I try.

I was particularly wrestling with this issue on Sunday and Monday, prior to leaving for Oklahoma over Thanksgiving. In fact, it grabbed so much of my attention, I forgot to check e-mail before I left. Wednesday, while visiting family, I had an opportunity to check mail. I was riveted to my seat by the first message. Then, I cried.

The e-mail was from LCpl. Manoukian’s mother, saying “Thank you” for what I had written. I had no idea that some simple words could have such an effect. I could never have imagined I would receive an e-mail from the family of a fallen warrior. I never dreamed I could touch them directly, let alone that they would contact me about it. I was humbled.

I called my children in and read them what I wrote, and what this wonderful, hurting woman had written back. I got choked up trying to read it back to them. They were speechless.
(…you will find her e-mail (edited) and my response in the comments to this post, and in the comments to the original post…)

Two days later, while driving home, I had the opportunity to teach one more lesson.

We stopped for a bathroom break in McKinney, Texas. The bathrooms only held one person at a time. There was myself, my wife, our two sons, and our two daughters. Needless to say, we were in line for a while.

While standing there, a motorcycle rider joined the line. He was by himself. On his leather vest were a bunch of patches: Air Force Staff Sergeant’s stripes, a flag, an MIA patch, and a few others. One, in particular, caught my attention. It said “Patriot Guard Rider.”

I asked if he had been on a ride. He nodded his head, looking down. He didn’t look down out of shame. It was out of regret. I simply leaned over, stuck out my hand, and said, “Thank you.” Suddenly, it was my turn in the bathroom. When I came out, he rushed in. There was no other exchange between us. My family was already at the car. I climbed in, and looked over my shoulder to watch the Rider start his bike and ride off.

My kids saw this man waiting in line. I wanted very much introduce my children to him, and explain to them what his group does. The chance did not materialize. Instead, I spent a few miles telling my children about the Patriot Guard Riders. All the while, I was looking at the horizon wondering where he had gone.

This Thanksgiving, I have a little more to be thankful for. My children learned the power of simple words and deeds. And, they’ve learned a lessons about honor in a way I doubt they’ll forget.

And, I have a reason to carry on the honor of remembrance. So, for all those who have fallen, we at our house remember your cry:

"Tell them of us and say,
For their tomorrow, we gave our today."
--The Kohima Epitaph--
We remember what you have given. And we say thank you for the tomorrows you have given others. May God give back to your families more than they have sacrificed and lost.

And, now, we dance In Memoriam.

(...and people wonder why we home school...tell me my kids would learn this in a classroom...)