by Kent Burress
Walking into the Ronald McDonald House this Memorial Day morning I saw a mom with a T shirt that said “half my heart is in Iraq”. We’ve had several moms stay with us whose husbands are deployed, and I think of the daily battles these moms with newborn babies in the NICU are facing alone. We do everything we can to create a supportive place for these moms, but we know there’s no way we can fill the special role being held for that baby’s father.
Seeing that T shirt got me thinking of my family. In my heritage there are veterans we can track all the way back beyond the civil war (our side lost). I have cousins deployed in Iraq right now – both male and female. I thought of these family members, but mostly I thought of my father.
He was in the Marine Corps during the Korean War. That’s a great source of pride for him. As soon as I was able to peck out a tune on the piano, he had me learn the Marine Corps Hymn – he still has me play it whenever he gets the chance. Now at eighty plus years, though, he sometimes has nightmares of seeing his buddies killed, and wrestling with the remembrance of all those on the enemy line that passed in front of his gun sights, whose lives he took. I think in some ways, no war is ever really over.
He rarely talks of his wartime experiences. When he does, he talks mostly about the good buddies he made. I can remember as a small child watching him talking on the phone to those guys for what seemed like hours. The other thing that he mentions more and more these days is the fear that all those lives that have made sacrifices; some on the battle fields, some who waited at home, some who have carried those wars with them all these years – he fears that all this will be forgotten.
So I’ll be a bit self serving here and take this opportunity to say thanks to my father who grew to be a strong, gentle and loving dad who still is proud of his years of service – and who I am very proud of.
Decades from now, when those newborn babies struggling in the NICU today are turning into grandparents, I hope they will be telling the stories of their moms and dads, full of gratitude and pride.