It began with one man struck with a tragedy most of us will never experience: His son was killed in action in Iraq. Not settling for just a name on a list as the only memorial to a life lived in honor and cut short by war, he set out to bring to life the sacrifices made by all Arkansas Soldiers. You see, those Soldiers lost their lives fighting for our freedoms, our way of life; not just for their own families, but for everyone that calls the United States home.
As anyone who has lost an important person in their lives know, a death is extremely personal and it comes with a pain unlike any other pain life can deal out. How someone handles loss is personal, unique and individual. There are no set rules laid down by society when it comes to feeling the emotions brought on by death. Sure, we have rituals and ceremonies and expectations of outward behavior, but those mores don’t touch the emotional pain felt deeper than anything else. Perhaps it’s this extreme pain that causes us to build fortified walls around our hearts. Not only do we distance ourselves from loss, but we run from it. We resist with all our might in order not to come close to feeling what we can only imagine. It is a nightmare none of us wish to experience.
But, when a Soldier dies, it is because he chose to fight for the things that the United States stands for. It’s not that he believes in war, or wishes to kill another human being, it’s because he believes - with his whole being – in freedom, in justice for all the world, not just us. Still, they are US Soldiers. They are ours.
Each and every American Soldier is our son, our daughter, our husband, our father, our mother. They belong to us. Those that have fallen have given their lives for us in a manner so selfless that it is beyond comprehension. We have lose a piece of ourselves every time a Soldier dies for us. So, why is it that it takes so much to prod each of us into, at the very least, paying our respects to the Soldiers who have died serving their country, serving you and I?
It wasn’t easy to watch the man set his son’s photo and information plaque into the ground in front of the waiting flag. It wasn’t easy seeing other Gold Star families peppered throughout the flag field doing the same. It wasn’t easy seeing 114 flags set in perfect rows flapping in yesterday’s frigid wind. There were so many that the wind whipping through the flags caused a roar of sound that cut through to my heart completely.
But when the trumpet was raised to pursed lips, the first notes of “Taps” broke the dam. I fought back the tears with all my might. I fought hard. I may have won the fight with my tears, but my heart lost the war. It is a devastating war, and not even close to the scope of what each Soldiers’ family must feel. I must feel this pain, this grief. I must.
And so must you.
Thank you, Soldier, for all that you have done for me, for us. Thank you.