It’s in the eyes of the children
As they leave for the very first time
And it’s in the heart of a soldier
As he takes a bullet on the frontline . . .
Last week I had the privilege of driving my Dad to an appointment at the VA Medical Center in Alexandria, LA. The hospital is located a little less than 110 miles from my parents’ house, so this trek to the VA qualified as a mini road trip.
Traveling with my Dad is fun; he’s a sporadic talker so we enjoyed periods of comfortable silence and engaging conversations. This time our conversation on the way to Alexandria was spotty at best; I drove to the hospital in what amounted to a deluge yet made it there safely (all courtesy of my Dad’s back-seat driving ability, of course).
I knew we were headed to the VA hospital, yet I have to admit I was still taken aback by the sights and sounds that greeted me on our arrival: Military personnel, the vast majority of them male, in various states of mental and physical health. So many of the men were in wheelchairs or on crutches; I even spotted a blind soldier making his way down the hallway with his white cane, his wife’s hand resting gently on his arm.
Glancing at my Dad, I fought an overwhelming urge to break down and weep as he and I walked that narrow hallway. I’d already noticed last year that his steps were slower, and the stoop that seemed slight to me before we arrived at the facility was now glaringly obvious. I took some deep breaths to keep myself from tearing up, and instead elected to deliberately make eye-contact with each serviceman who glanced our way. I gave them a small nod of appreciation that silently said, “Thank you. I appreciate you.”
This is why we do it
This is worth the pain
This is why we fall down
And get back up again
This is where the heart lies
This is from above
Love is this, this is love . . .
My Dad fought in two wars during the course of his Army career; the Korean Conflict and Vietnam. I’m ashamed to admit that it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I genuinely recognized the magnitude of this, even though I knew that he had sustained service-related disabilities. The enormity of my Dad’s service finally hit me when a friend, whose father had also fought in Vietnam, described to me how his gregarious, jokester of a father went off to fight, only to return as another man; this one paranoid, drug-addicted, abusive, and suicidal. His father eventually took his life.
It’s in the soul of a city
What it does after it crumbles and burns
And it’s in the blood of a hero
To know where he goes he may never return
The words to Love = This by The Script played constantly in my mind the entire day. I looked at those men and women; so many of them now in their senior years, broken and bruised, and all in the name of serving their country. I thought about the photos I’ve seen of the young version of my Dad, proud and stalwart in his crisp Army uniform, and tried to picture the same younger versions of the persons who shared the hallway and waiting room with him.
Love is why we do it
Love is worth the pain
Love is why we fall down
And get back up again . . .
I sat there, and when my Dad went in to see the doctor I silently thanked God for bringing him home those many years ago, alive and whole. I asked God to forgive me for my self-centeredness and ingratitude, my failure to recognize what a precious gift my Mother, brothers, and I were given in getting my Dad back. Just the thought of that gift moved me to ask Him to bless and strengthen the families of those who were not as fortunate as my family was. I prayed for my friend who had lost his father, and for other fatherless and motherless sons and daughters whose names I would never know. I prayed for the thousands of servicemen and women all around the globe, separated from their families yet willing to serve the country they love.
Love is where the heart lies
Love is from above
Love is this, this is love . . .
Join in the fray:
What says “love” to you? What sacrifices have you made for love?
Copyright © 2012 Michelle Matthews Calloway, All rights reserved.
A Swirl Girl says
KP, thank you for sharing so much of your Dad and your heart with me. I’m sorry to hear that your Father is no longer with you. How VERY proud you must be of him! Like you, I’m cherishing the moments that I get to spend with him (as well as my Mother). My Dad was not directly injured in battle but he suffers from a war-related disability. He’s fierce and he’s proud, and he says that if he had to do it all over again, he would. I salute my Father, your Father, and all the countless Dads, brothers, uncles, and sons who have served our country and currently served. We are indeed blessed and fortunate – and live in freedom – because of their sacrifice. May God bless you and your family as you hold your Father’s memory close in your heart.
You are so blessed to still have your father and to take the time to be with him, no matter what you’re doing. My dad was a career Army officer who went to Viet Nam twice. He died nine years ago of complications due to exposure to Agent Orange. My mother tirelessly cared for him for the eight years he was an invalid. He was 6’2″ and weighed 120 pounds by the time he died; it was very difficult but I cherished the moments I had with him. I’m a retired Naval officer, which made my dad proud; he loved the idea that at least one of his kids followed in his footsteps. We were able to talk about military things and he told me so many stories of his time in Viet Nam, things he had never told my mother. He didn’t think she’d understand but he knew I would. I consider him as having died for this country, even though he didn’t fall in battle. My dad is buried at Arlington National Cemetery and I live in Virginia so I go to see him once a month and also on Memorial day, Veteran’s day, his birthday and Father’s day. I know I’m his daughter and am biased but he was the best man who ever lived and I’m proud to have his genes. Thanks, Dad!
A Swirl Girl says
Joe, thanks so much for reading and commenting. One of my prayers is that I attain a heightened sense of awareness and appreciation of those gifts. I’m blessed and I know it – and I’m grateful.
Joseph Sutton says
Deep observation, we all go through life not realizing the gifts we have in our lives. Some come to this realization after someone is gone. This blessed me today.