Sunday, November 11, 2007

This is My Heart Crying Out Loud

This is my story about my parents, my husband’s father, and what Veteran’s Day means to me.

My husband, father, uncles, grandfather, and so on are all military veterans and my niece just finished her service in the U.S. Navy. I grew up as a military dependent and I married a military man. Patriotism was and continues to be part and parcel of my way of life.

My father and mother are buried together at Arlington National Cemetery (U.S. Army) and my husband’s father (U.S. Air Force) is buried very close by across the road from them—a bit of sad synchronicity in our life.

My parents were introduced by my mom’s sister and her husband on July 4, 1951 at the Fort Myers Officer’s Club in Virginia across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. Their first date was the next day—sitting on a bench in the park at Arlington National Cemetery reading the newspaper together. My father was serving at Arlington at the time and my mother was in nursing school. They married 17 days after meeting and shared 53 years of love and life together.

Mom and Dad died 8 days apart in two separate hospitals in 2004—a separate nightmare on its own. When we told him Mom had died, Dad took off his watch and threw it on the floor—time had stopped for him.

I will never forget the look of pride and gratitude in his eyes when he discovered that he and Mom would be buried together at Arlington National Cemetery—full circle on their love story. Besides telling him about Mom’s death, this conversation about his impending death was one of the hardest things my brother, sisters, and I have ever had to do.

This is a picture of the cemetery on Veteran’s Day from the U.S. Army. I have pictures of my parent’s and my husband’s father’s military funerals at Arlington and their grave sites but I cannot bear to post them.

A funeral at Arlington National Cemetery is one that no one who experiences it will ever forget—it is simultaneously beautiful and heartbreakingly sad.

A procession of The Old Guard Caisson Platoon winds itself around the cemetery park in total silence. The only sound you hear are the horses’ hooves: clip clop…clip clop…clip clop.

I walked every inch of those miles behind the horse-drawn cart carrying my parents’ bodies while holding desperately to my husband’s hand.

At the end of the interment service, a gun salute is fired—seven service members fire three volleys each. After that a lone bugler standing off to one side plays Taps, a sound that will haunt me until my own end time comes.

As I write this, I am crying. I cry for all those who have died for reasons of war and I cry for the loss of my beloved and much-missed parents. There is not one single day or night in my life since they died that I don’t mourn. There’s a ragged hole in my heart nothing can ever heal.

Today I honor my parents, my husband’s father, and all those before and after who sacrifice their time with family and/or their lives in the horrors of war. My family and my husband’s family know first-hand the heartache of saying goodbye to a family member and spending a year or more at a time fearing they won’t return.

I’m grateful to those courageous men and women who serve in the military and provide us with the freedom to sleep safely at night. May those now in harm’s way be blessed with a safe return home. And may their families be blessed for the sacrifices they give and the heartache they suffer in having to say goodbye.

There’s a sign they post at Arlington National Cemetery during funeral services that simply says, “Silence and Respect.” That is my plan for today.


Taylor Design said...

Junie - this post made me cry, it was so beautiful. My husband is Active Duty Air Force and everytime he leaves for the desert I pray that he will return to me. We are currently stationed in Korea and tomorrow my husband has to work but I will be thinking of him and all the other soldiers tomorrow as I pray for their safety and security. Thank you!

Unknown said...

This a beautiful post.

Anonymous said...

Time stopped. Heartbreaking. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post! My son's father has been an officer in the Air Force for almost 20 years and will be retiring soon. My son is proud of his father, but I think (at 7) he doesn't really understand what it means to be in a war (Desert Storm)and even more, active duty military for most of his life. I hope one day he understands and takes as much pride in his father's service and sacrifice as you do your father's.

Thank you for this post!

Vonna Pfeiffer said...

What a beautifully written post. Your parents and all that have fallen are most proud, I'm sure, of your words spoken with reverence and truth.
God Bless You!

Ali said...

What a beautiful place to be laid to rest. And I join you in your gratitude and hopes for a safe return.

Jennifer W. said...


Yummers! said...

I don't even know what to say as I sit here and cry. I miss my mom and dad so much and your post opened the 'floodgates'.

My husband has taught me all about WWII... through movies, documentaries, books, and conversations. I feel as though that's my tribute to my dad who survived 'The Battle of the Bulge' but was scarred for life. I needed to know what his life was like for those 3 years.

Thank you for helping us to remember the men and women who have fought for peace.
Love to you,

Anonymous said...

Thank you Junie

Anonymous said...

For your parents and father-in-law... Thank you.

Unknown said...

Thank you for your beautiful post.

Kristie said...

This is a beautiful tribute, June. Have I told you lately what a beautiful soul you have? Your parents are so proud. I know they are. As am I. Love you, June.

Anonymous said...

Oh, June -- what a beautiful, heartbreaking tribute. I'm at a loss for words.

Lena said...

This my sweet friend, is why you have become so dear to me. You truly feel your life, and have empathy for others.
This is a beautiful post, one that has brought tears to my eyes. I too have been to Arlington, for the wreath ceremony, and the changing of the Guard. I've witnessed the Cassion, and heard the horses and the salute. As you know, my dad is a Veteran, and I too have very strong feelings about his service and that of all those who serve. My dad said to me once, that he would serve again, to keep anyone else that he loved from ever having to. Everyday, I have the thought, that each person who serves, is beloved by someone, and I wish them all home safely. Our service men and women truly deserve all the honor and respect that is represented at Arlington, but they deserve so much more. So many go without the support and care that they need to recover and make a life for themselves when they come home. I'm donating money towards their cause this Christmas season, as I continue to hope for peace, on earth.

May you find peace and comfort, within your heart, June. Your mom and dad would want that for you.

a pink-bee said...

What an amazing Post, thanks, Junie.

Pat said...

What a beautiful post. May God bless You our Service Men and Women (Past and present) and the United States of Americia.

Gumbo Lily said...

Thank you for sharing your story with us. So touching and bittersweet.
I always like to thank military families who have kept the home fires burning while their loved ones have been in service. It's a sacrifice for you as well and I thank you.

rohanknitter said...

A beautiful tribute, June.
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

We call it rememberance day here and it would have been my Mum's 67 birthday. I remember this day for two reasons.

Home ec new Haven said...

So touching.
Thanks for sharing it June.

Anonymous said...

God Bless You! This was so heartfelt and sincere. My eyes welled up with tears. May you find some peace today as you reflect on your family.

Unknown said...

June, thank you for this post. I got chills reading it.

Unknown said...

June! This post has me in a veteren myself (Desert Shield/Storm) I thank you for keeping us close to your beautiful, warm heart! Many hugs and prays to you and your lovely family and too all those who have, had family in foreign wars! God Bless America!

Sheree said...

Blessings to you and your family. My grandparents died 7 days apart, and it was such a sad and difficult time, morning 2 losses at once. My heart goes out to you.

Thank you for sharing your family story. It is a touching one. We all must remember and honor the sacrifices our military men and women make for us each day.

Hugs to you.