The grown up version

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I always cry on the Fourth of July


I initially meant to post this closer to July 4, 2011, but I let it sit in my drafts for a while.

On September 11, 2001, I experienced extreme trauma as the attacks on our nation occurred and I watched on TV as the Twin Towers fell. I remember vividly sending my toddler son out to play in the backyard because I didn’t want him to see. My infant son napped peacefully in his crib. I was on my knees in front of the TV, begging God for mercy for those inside the Towers. I’ll never forget that I saw people jumping from the buildings, saw people running from the fiery Pentagon, heard that yet another plane had crashed in Pennsylvania.

Subsequently, I’m sure I’ve got a bit of Post Traumatic Stress from that experience. Clearly from my own making, of course. I could have turned the TV off, but then again, how could I? It seems now that it would have almost been irreverent to snuff out what was happening by flipping a switch; almost like it didn’t matter to me.

The good news is that all over the United States, the events of that day renewed our sense of patriotism and loyalty to our country. My boys are growing up to have respect for the flag and for the soldiers who fight to defend it. Their uncle and their grandfather have the standing of superheros in their eyes because they served our country in war.

The other part of this PTSD that I’m really not all that worried about is that I always cry on the Fourth of July. An American flag flapping around brings immediate tears. Mandatory gear for watching a parade includes some tissues.

On Sunday, July 3 of this year our church had a service of honor for veterans and members of the U.S. Armed Forces, along with law enforcement, fireman and medical personnel. They sat them on the front rows as we paid homage to what they’ve done.

I did great until the end of the service. Our pastor asked for a moment of silence for those who had paid the ultimate price in service to our country. During the silence, the sound of weeping was heard. I strained to hear where it was coming from. It was coming from those front rows of the church, where those grown men wept openly and tried to comfort each other.

It tore me up, but I realized it wasn’t the sound that got me. It was their tears for friends lost, for the things they’ve seen, for the things they’ve had to do. It was tears for what they know that others are doing right now on foreign soil. They can comfort each other because they alone know what it is they need comfort for.

I can’t cry for those reasons. I’ve never been in the military. But I cry too. I cry out of respect for what little I understand about what they’ve done. Their sacrifice means my children live free. These men and women daily lay down their lives for my children’s freedom and protection just as I would.

My tears and respect are the only way I can try to repay the incredible debt I owe to them.

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