I was eleven when I learned what Memorial Day meant.
I woke up one morning to the hushed voice of my mother as she spoke to someone on the phone. I could tell something had happened because she never used that tone of voice unless something was serious. Only able to pick out a few words, two of them immediately stood out, the family name of one of my best friends and “missing.”
We were living in the high desert of California at Edwards Air Force Base where my father was stationed. A place later immortalized in the movie, “The Right Stuff,” to me it was more than where the sound barrier was broken. It was the place where the last memories of my childhood would always live. Memories of Joshua Trees, long, solitary walks in the desert, hot Popsicle summers, my favorite-ever-school year and one overheard phone call.
I remember standing in the tiny hallway of our mobile home, just out of my mother’s sight, listening. She couldn’t possibly have meant Steve’s family, could she? My heart was pounding as I hoped I had heard wrong.
We lived around the corner from him in a trailer park jokingly called “Widow’s Row” due to the many families who chose to stay there rather than relocate during unaccompanied assignments. My father was on an assignment to Greenland, but most of them were sent to Vietnam where Steve’s father had been.
Looking back, it was a terrible name.
In the weeks following, I sometimes came home to find Steve sitting silently on my couch. He would show up unannounced and leave again when he was ready. He knew he was always welcome and we were happy to be there for him.
It was at the memorial service where I learned what had happened to Steve’s Dad; why he had been declared, “Missing in Action.”
His last mission had been to deliver critical supplies in an area completely cut off by enemy forces. Waived off multiple times, he requested one final try hoping he could fly in low enough and get out fast enough. The drop was successful but his plane was hit on the way out and he didn’t make it back. I remember hearing over and over how many lives were saved due to his sacrifice.
I had heard that term, sacrifice, many times, but this was the first time I really understood what it meant.
A meaning that was punctuated by an unforgettable image of the missing man formation as I stood outside the chapel that day.
As time went on, there were many times when I could apply the word sacrifice to events in my life. Not the least of which, my own husband who willingly gave up many years of time with me and our children in the name of freedom.
But on that day, as I watched my childhood slip away, a sacred understanding formed in my heart and continues to serve as a foundation today for everything that truly matters in my life.
Lover of reading, writing, sparkly things and whatever purrs, barks or flies. Former helicopter mom, co-dependent and enabler, I am addicted to walking, my family and my iWatch. Teacher by day and writer by night, I am clearly the one learning the most. Keeping it up until I get it right. Choosing joy one day at a time and sharing my journey so others can see why it might not be found if we don’t look for it. Thanks for stopping by!