And I Gladly Stand Up

Ten years ago we awoke to a changed nation. The security we had always felt as Americans tumbled with the Twin Towers. We felt vulnerable. Scared. Angry.

In the midst of those raw emotions, a more powerful emotion prevailed. Pride. Our nation rose up around those affected, hoping in some way that by unifying, our strength would help heal them. I believe it did. I have never been more proud to be an American.

I shared the following story on my personal blog about an experience I had with my daughter, Claire. And while I know this is a couponing blog where we talk freebies not freedom, I felt that on the 10th anniversary of the worst terrorism attacks our country has ever seen, it needed to be shared here as well.

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I was fuming as the cleaning man shut the movie theater door. If their recording says a movie is playing at 11:15 and my daughter is giddy about seeing a movie at 11:15 and I show up at 11:15 to find the theater closed, Mama Bear in me comes out.

To stop Claire’s tears, I begrudgingly drive across the street to McDonalds. We eat, she plays and all sadness about broken movie promises vanishes. I begin cleaning up our table when a small tow-headed girl bounces over to us and proclaims, “It’s my birthday today. I’m FOUR YEARS OLD!”

“I’m four years old too,” Claire says. I turn to the child’s mother who is situating their meal on the table next to us, “They grow up so fast don’t they.”

She begins sobbing.

Not sure how to react, I fumble through some version of “I’m sorry” before she explains.

Her husband, who had been stationed in Afghanistan for 8 months had been killed two weeks ago. She is obviously still reeling. She divulges just enough to explain her tears, then turns around to bury them in her food.

As I help Claire get her shoes on, I try to piece words together in my mind that might comfort her. I fail. Useless generic phrases are the only things that come to mind. I grab my purse to leave as I hear her whisper, “Oh no. I can’t do this.”

I follow her gaze and immediately locate the root of her words. Two soldiers dressed in complete uniform have just sat down. She scoops her daughter up as the bright-eyed child fights her mother’s grasp and sobs about half-eaten hamburgers.

We are a few steps behind her as she makes her way to the door. She pauses in front of the soldier’s table just long enough to thank them for their service before she rushes to her car. I try to keep my emotions in check as I explain the young widow’s situation to the two men. They immediately jump up from the table and follow her out.

I do not know what words were exchanged. I do not see their interaction at all. But I can only imagine they, unlike me, know the right things to say. About sacrifice and heroes, honor and service.

As I pull out of the parking lot, I can no longer fight it. I cry. An ugly cry. My nose is running and my shoulders are shaking and I can barley see the road through my tears.

Claire asks me what’s wrong. “Nothing,” I say. And I mean it.

There is not a thing in my life that justifies a true complaint, not a single trial that deserves a pity party. I have no true needs, only wants. I am able to choose where I live and work and raise my children. I am not controlled by anyone. I do not fear for my life or the lives of my family. I am free in every sense of the word.

That freedom was bought and paid for with the life of that woman’s husband and the countless others who have died serving this country. I will never be able to thank them properly. But I am grateful. Deeply grateful. And on this day in particular, regardless of whether you support the war or our President or our mission overseas, let’s pause our busy lives to appreciate those selflessly serving: the soldiers, officers, firefighters and first responders that will never know our names, but valiantly go to work everyday to protect our freedom.

“It is my earnest hope – indeed the hope of all mankind – that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past, a world found upon faith and understanding, a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish for freedom, tolerance and justice.” – General Douglas Macarthur

Comments

  • Michelle

    Thank you for the story. My cousin, a 26 yo Marine was recently KIA (3 hrs prior to the helicopter crash a month ago) and as I read your story I could only think of his widow he left behind and how hard it has been for her. God bless all our troops that give everything so we can everything!!

  • Beautifully said, Amber – thank you for sharing. My thoughts and prayers are with that woman, and everybody dedicated to our freedom.

  • Lane

    Beautiful, thank you!

  • From a mother of an American soldier I thank you.Everyday I pray that our men and women come home safe.They are no longer fighting just for our freedom but bow for they freedom of the world.GOD BLESS YOU SON I LOVE YOU

  • Mickey Mingo

    Thank you! As I try to type this I’m sobbing. I have loved ones in the service overseas and you dread the late night calls. My husband has served, my brother-in-law.You wrote what a lot of us would like to say but can’t get the words out. I would love to repost your message if you don’t mind? Please

  • Yes, thank you. I can’t imagine what I could have said in a similar situation either to say thank you and I’m sorry and have it ever possibly mean it enough. And yet, I do feel such sorrow and gratitude for those who have lost loved ones. I pray they may know somehow.

  • Margaret

    Very well said.

  • Chelsea

    I agree…you wrote what a lot of us would like to say, but can’t put into words. Just beautiful. Praying and so thankful for our troops, and God Bless America!

  • Michelle

    Thank you so much for this blog today…As a wife of an OIF Veteran, I feel proud and also thankful for all those who have served and continue to serve this great country of ours. We shall never forget 9/11/01. May God bless all those who were killed on that day and may He watch over those who serve in our Armed Forces.

  • I remember reading this last year and it made me cry. And yet once again it has! Thank you to our soldiers and other service men (police, firema,n Etc) For keeping our country safe and free! Adn shout out to my hubby and brother THANK YOU!

  • Amber A

    I think we all regularly forget how much we have. Thank you Amber for such a beautifully written post!

  • Lydia

    Thank you for such a thoughtful post and god bless america- land of the free, home of the brave!

  • Jessica

    Beautifully written. What a great reminder of the sacrifices people make on our behalf.

  • Courtney

    Thank you for posting this… as a military spouse with a husband currently deployed to Afghanistan, stories like these are heartbreaking and and our nation needs to hear them. Not to get all political, but, I think many Americans forget that we are STILL fighting a war, our men and women are STILL dying for our freedom, and though there is recognition on days like today, I don’t think it is nearly enough… My heart goes out to the woman you met, and I commend her for at least trying to hold it together. I don’t know that I could… Again, thank you for this post.

  • nora

    Well said and so true.

  • Dolores Gardner

    It amazes me that the people who have or are serving don’t see what they do as heroic. I couldn’t be prouder of my husband, who after 20 years of active service was called back to active duty that day as an Air Traffic Controller in NY. He was glad to serve for another 2 years. When people heard that he was working 12 hour shifts 6 days a week for 8 solid months, they said things like:” Wow, the overtime pay must be great!” PS The military does not pay overtime. You sign up willingly your body, time and possibly your life. We, as American’s take for granted our heros.
    It took a trip to China, where people met my husband, then asked me: “Do the american’s understand that your husband is a National Hero???” Why did I have to travel half a world away to be reminded of that?
    So many times you will hear of a person receiving recognition for heroism, but they all have the common denominator of saying something like: ” I was just doing what needed to be done”.
    None of us may feel like a “hero” today, but we can do things every day that are heroic.

  • Deanne

    Thank you for your comments, reading it and all the memories on TV yesterday have left me feeling very grateful and thankful to all those who seem to get no recognition,,,,, until it’s too late……

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