As I stood looking out the window in the darkness etched with the breaking of day, the tears streamed down my face. The knot in my stomach seemed to travel up and connect to the strings of my heart. I had finally found him after years of waiting and praying, and now I had kissed him "Goodbye;" I realized it could have been my last kiss from his lips, that last embrace still seemed tangible to me. With everything in me, I hadn't wanted to let go, but I had to. I did it as he did..for my country, for the love of liberty.
Not long ago a friend posted on facebook that she did not feel comfortable saying the pledge of allegiance to our flag. She felt, I suppose from other things she has said, that a pledge is a serious thing to promise to a country that, in many ways, has stepped away from its state of origin. I didn't respond to her post, understanding her frustrations, but also because I was too angry and irritated, I knew I might say too much and needed to think and pray about what to say. I checked on the post a quarter of an hour later and saw that she had several kindly vehement responses from people, mostly who had served in the military. I felt their responses were so much better than anything I could say, so I went to bed. It still troubled me when I awoke the next morning, but when I checked, she had deleted her comment. Perhaps it had troubled her in the night as well.
Still, I couldn't help but wonder if she would feel the same if she had stood by the window as I had several years ago as my husband headed off to the war in Iraq, my then almost two year old little girl sleeping soundly in her bed. I had spent those moments wondering what life would be like for the next 9 months, not knowing what my husband was facing, wondering if he would be the same person when he came home... if he came home...always, countless times a day, pushing THAT thought out of my head. He must come home; I needed him. I couldn't think about what could happen. I had to concentrate on keeping up with our lives at home.
Sitting in church was hard. Having a full time job in the day and then working our farm in his off hours, my husband doesn't get much time to relax. Church is a time to just sit next to each other, feel each other's presence. I treasure my time at church with him. I wondered if she had ever sat alone in church and felt the emptiness of the seat beside her, and wondered if that seat would ever feel his presence again...pushing that thought aside to try to concentrate on the sermon at hand.
I wondered if she would feel the same way if she'd gone to bed alone, night after night, felt the loneliness and sadness, wishing he was there, wishing life was normal again, trying not to think that that spot next to her on the bed might not hold his presence again...and pushing that thought aside so as to force the sleep to come that was needed to hold up the home-front. Courage constantly battered by fear.
And yet, invariably, as I lay there looking out at the stars, I thought of other women...women who held down their homes during wars where there was no reliable means of correspondence, going weeks or months without knowing where their husbands were or if they were ever coming back.
We brought little flags to the airport the day he came home. Our daughter thought it was fun to wave hers around saying, "My daddy is coming home today." I touched the stripes of my flag as we drove up to the airport, realizing that sometimes we have to see things in light of the bigger picture. This flag stands for much more than the cloth it is sewn from...it symbolizes the weight of what our country was founded on. As long as it stands for the freedom that it symbolizes, as long as men and women like our husbands and wives, sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, give of themselves to defend that freedom and keep it that way, I will stand and honor that symbol. I will be grateful to those who sacrifice for her freedom today and in the future. Perhaps someday, if her son grows up and heads off to serve in the military, the weight and pride of freedom from this vantage point will give her a new perspective of our flag.
For me, I will stand beside my husband and love the freedom our flag symbolizes: a freedom that is a merciful gift from God.
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
For my American readers, please show your love of freedom and vote for it today.