And I Gladly Stand Up
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.
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