, , , , , , , , ,

Tomb of the Unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery.

Tomb of the Unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

… who sit and wait …Today is Veteran’s Day.

And like many others today, I am happy that there are so many brave men and women who serve in the Military … and who have served proudly in the past.

Like my Dad.

Who served in the Army for twenty years … in WWII, and Okinawa, and the Korean War and … well, a lot of places. And normally this would be a blog entry just about the people who served in the military.

But for some reason this morning the quote “They also serve …” kept running through my mind.

Actually the correct quote from Milton’s poem is:

They also serve who only stand and wait.

It is used often when talking about those who are left behind as the Military go off to war. But I expanded it.

Being a woman “of a certain age” I suppose, I reflect back to when I was a child … and the times before I was born. When the majority of Military were men. And the women … well, that is where my mind is today.

Several stories come to mind. I will share a few.

My friend Jeanne, who has been mentioned here before, had two parents who served in the military. Both buried in Arlington National Cemetery, her father was in the Army (Tec 3), her mother in the WAAC’s (Sgt).

In her words –

My Mom was such a quiet, humble, yet truly amazing woman.  I wish I were more like her.  Her life is my inspiration.  She did everything with love and grace, kindness and respect.

My Mom–proudly served in WWII as an air traffic controller.  She is buried with my Dad in Arlington National Ceremony.  Her name is on the back of his headstone.  (They are) My Heroes.

My Mom was with the Women’s Army Air Corps. Both of my parents  loved their country, and they served willingly and proudly.  Dad was a POW, earned the Purple Heart.  My Mom won many service awards during her time in the Army.  My Dad and  my Mom were married in 1945 at the Butler VA Hospital as my Dad was recovering from serious injuries and health problems as result of that service. 

Their stories are so incredible.  I remain in awe of them and their accomplishments….and I miss them every day.

Then there is the story of my friend Texas Linda … who also had parents who both served in the Military. Actually, the phrase Military Affairs has a special meaning to her, since that is how they met initially.

But she also was married for many years to a man who served in the Navy, during the Vietnam War. And was deployed there.

In her words:

 As we all knew, there were Casualty Officers … I think they might call them Bereavement Officers now. When a service man was killed, it was their duty to come to the family’s home and deliver the news in person.

And back in the Vietnam War era, they drove White Station Wagons.

Since we lived in Camp Pendleton Base Housing, all the families were associated with the military in one way or another. So everyone knew what the White Station Wagons meant.

When one appeared at the gates, even the children stopped playing. They may not have understood the full meaning of the White Station Wagons, but they knew it was not good.

The women who saw them knew full well what they meant. And as they crept … ever so slowly … up the street, looking for the correct address, breathing stopped.

Once the White Station Wagon passed their own house, the woman would be flooded with emotion. First she exhaled. Then the profound sense of relief that, at least for that day, her loved one was safe and alive.

But then that was quickly followed by the knowledge that someone else would get the dreaded knock. And the inevitable grief at learning who had suffered the ultimate loss.

My mind goes back a few years to my friend Connie, who got that knock on her door. Her two sons, both proud Marines had volunteered to go to fight in Iraq.

One returned.

The stories of the son she lost are amazing and inspiring. And she is comforted by the fact that he was doing what he loved.

I would like to say she has recovered and gone on to live a happy life, but reality is she has never moved past it. It hangs over her life like the proverbial Sword of Damocles … always there … always threatening her peace of mind.

And finally, there is my Mom.

Who served as an Army Wife for most of my Dad’s twenty years in the Army. She stayed at home and raised my brother and I … trying hard to be both Mother and Father in his absences. Doing what needed to be done for us all.

I know she tried to help my brother learn to play baseball. But then, neither one of them was too athletic. In the bittersweet effort, she would throw the ball for him to hit.

One time it hit him instead.

I am not sure who had more tears from the incident. Both remember the incident vividly and are moved to tears by it to this very day.

But mostly I remember the typewriter.

Every night … every single night … my Mother would tuck my brother and I into bed, then make her way downstairs to the typewriter. With the red and blue edged envelopes … and the air mail light paper. 

And type a letter to my Father.

It seems to me that after a period of time, she set up a card table in the bedroom, and brought the typewriter up. To make it more convenient I suppose.

And every night I would fall asleep to the tap … tap … tap of my Mother’s typing. Typing words of love, devotion, encouragement … and news from home.

Every night.

They also serve …