For Vets

Dear Beloved,

Did you want to go? It was so far away and cold. I don’t mean the temperature. It may have been hot, as a desert summer. I mean the coldness that comes from being isolated, even in the midst of a band of brothers, eating strange K ration food, sleeping in a bunk with six others in the same room, or a foxhole, and sharing a commode down the hall.

Did you want to go? Away from family, church home, friends, or the little girl with the pigtails who clung to her blanket as you kissed her goodbye early in the morning on the day you left. Did you want to go? Knowing, always knowing, that today could be the day you die?

Did you want to leave your spouse or parents? Those who loved you most in good times and bad? The ones who wept as you boarded the plane?

You didn’t; did you? Deep down inside, you didn’t want to go, but you went. You went, for me, for us, for them, for freedom, and for love.

I wonder what you thought as you went. Was it high and noble dreams of soldiers in years gone by? Those who fought before you in Iwo Jima, Normandy, Vietnam, and Iraq? Did they carry you forward somehow? Were you propelled by those who had blazoned the trail of freedom and proclaimed, “We will never give up!”

I wonder what you thought. Maybe it was nothing. Maybe you just went because you were called, and you had no aspirations of greatness. That stuff is only in movies anyway, right? When your friend next to you gets a bullet to the head, there is not much glamour and not much thinking of movies. It makes me cry to think of it.

When you came back, how was it? Did we treat you with the respect you deserved? Did we forget to say thanks? Did we discount the sacrifice, the horror, and the pain you had been through for us? What was it like to come home?

You know what I think? I think you are like Jesus. I mean it. He came to a cold place and knew one day would be the day He would die. He did not want to, but He came for us, for freedom, and for love. He is home now, and we forget to dwell on the significance of what He did, too. We are an ungrateful lot.

I am sorry. I am sorry, and I am hopeful. Sorry we do not value you as we should, and hopeful that this letter will help. Help us heal. Help us change. Help us learn to say thank you. We do love you, and we are glad you went; glad you came home. Greatness is not just for the movies.

We grieve with you over the ones you left behind: your brothers and sisters. Our protectors. We look forward to a day when we will see those with Christ in glory.

Signed with much love and respect from those of us who have been protected.