Gratitude for a blessing can have a long legacy. It can be written across the soul early in life, raised high and often, knowing full well its precious value. It feels meager to record it once on my current listing of gifts. Blessing number 681 has brought knee-bending thanksgiving for almost fifty years.
A 1959 transport lands on a mid-west international runway. The door opens. The young Lieutenant onboard has been away from home for a year, flown halfway around the world to return. He doesn’t wait, jumps off the plane with duffle bag in hand and runs to the four young children racing for his arms.
In 1966, at the same international airport, a commercial airliner arrives from LA. Several passengers are on the final leg of their travel from Saigon including the same soldier, a Major now, wearing pilot’s wings on his uniform. Mama is teary with joy but allows us, dad’s six kids, to reach him first, to tackle our father at the gate. This was the first of two more homecomings over the next three years from that small divided Asian nation.
Our father was a soldier, a Veteran of war. Even so, I never knew that he received the Bronze Star until well into adulthood. Today our soldier is 82 years young. Every Veterans Day I call my humble soldier to tell him how honored I am by the service he gave in the years of his prime and how blessed I feel to have had him present these many decades since. He always deflects my words by saying we all served, the whole family. It weighs heavy on him, those years, the impact they had on us all.
There was a cost. But there was also growth. I clung to God early. I learned faith in childhood through trials beyond childhood concerns. I experienced the strength that can come only from the Spirit within and the depth of joy that only the hand of God can deliver.
My heart deep thanks to all members of the Armed Forces this week of Veterans Day 2011.