January 22, 2005

Not many will die for even a righteous man

When in high school I heard the Star Spangled Banner more times than I cared. I played it repeatedly in band, stood at attention for it as a cheerleader, and snapped my gum a few times while I stood on the sidelines. I considered myself a patriotic, young, Republican girl, but I just didn't find myself moved by the national anthem.

Enter R. He was the first man I had known who wasn't in the military simply because it was a way out of a small town or jail. When he told his parents he didn't want to attend college because he wasn't mature enough and that he was opting for the United States Marine Corps instead, they weren't exactly pleased. But, they trusted their son and his knowledge of himself. When his four years were up, he felt ready for the "rigors" of collegiate life. He knew he was ready to study but his love of the Corps and country kept him in the Reserves. After a year of community college, he headed to the University of Missouri. We had enrolled in the same afternoon Spanish class, and thus our introduction. There were weekends that he gave up with me for his committment to the Corps. He would always return with some good stories of training and a few anecdotes of brothers with strange names bestowed on them by their Corps family.

August of 1990 R told me that he anticipated getting called up. They could feel that it was coming- the news, the build up, etc. Sure enough, the call came. We married early winter while he was preparing to ship out. We stayed in a summer resort hotel right on the beach. Being off season, it was practically deserted expect for our party. We slept in, ate out, walked the pier and a tiny strip of the beach, among other things. The Atlantic calmed by winter was breathtaking, beautiful and calming.

Monday morning we moved quietly around, neither of us saying much. The ride into Jacksonville was hushed. The town appeared to have been neatly tucked in, lulled into comfortable sleep by knowledge of faithful protectors nearby. A guard at the gate let us pass and we drove over to the barracks. R pulled into a parking spot and turned the key. We hugged for an eternity of minutes. After an exchange of love and encouragement for the coming separation, he got out and turned to smile for me as I drove off. Every breath I took while passing out of town seemed purposed and labored. I don't remember getting back to the hotel, but I do recall lying on the polyester paisley bedspread. I stared at the ceiling for a long time before falling alseep.

A few months later, R deep in the heart of Saudi Arabia, and E growing in the depths of my womb, some circumstance found me hearing the Star Spangled Banner again. For a few seconds, I stood there, fighting myself, resisting what I felt coming. I pressed my fingernails into the palms of my hands and took shallow breaths. I looked around me at the kids talking while waiting for the event to begin, wanting to slap them, to shake them. I saw disinterested teachers mouthing the words while casually leaning against a doorjamb. I wanted to thump their heads and tell them to stand up! Pay attention! Mostly, I saw the face of my beloved R, the words of his letters flashing like subtitles on the screen of my memory. Suddenly this song became more than a half-hearted attempt at patriotism. Words had meaning; words had faces; words had progeny living inside my very body. The disrespect and disinterest became personal and the sacrifice of everyday comforts, of a college education, of time spent with a wife, of hearing the uterine heartbeat of his firstborn, were thoughtlessly stepped on like trash under the feet of spectators. No longer wrestling, I gave in and sang louder, stood taller, tears rolling down my face and neck, finally dissipating when they reached my heart.

"The land of the free and the home of the brave." Anyone can dissent. Anyone can complain. Anyone can argue. Anyone can protest. Not everyone will sacrifice their very life for the freedom of even one person. I feel so fortunate to know him and to be associated with one who can truly be counted as not only "one of the few, the proud," but the increasingly smaller number of the brave. Thank you, R. I love you so very much.

Posted by Rae at January 22, 2005 12:42 PM | TrackBack

God bless R. God bless all our men and women, who put their lives on the line for our country, and to impart the freedoms we enjoy to the oppressed. And God bless the families, and you, who wait and pray for their loved ones to come home safe and sound. May all their prayers be answered yes and amen.

Posted by: Heart at January 23, 2005 03:01 PM

Thank you, Heart. And I agree.

Posted by: Rae at January 24, 2005 05:37 PM

I had a similar experience with a song, only in my case it was "America The Beautiful." Before 9/11 I knew the words of this song, but the full impact of the line "Who more than self their country loved,/and mercy more than life" did not hit me until I thought of the firefighters who ran back into the second tower after the first had collapsed. That line continues to impact me as our troops (some of whom are my friends) go to Iraq to show that their love for not only our country, but theirs too, is worth more than their own lives.

Posted by: Wacky Hermit at January 25, 2005 05:00 AM

BEAUTIFUL RAE! That was just beautiful!

Posted by: SALLY at January 26, 2005 08:31 AM
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