An Open Letter to My Son On Memorial Day

(a repost from two years ago)

Dear Josh,

Today is Memorial Day. I remember this time seven years ago. It was the Friday before Memorial Day, and I picked you up from school and took you and your sister and brothers to Arlington Cemetery. We walked around and amidst lots of moaning and "I need to pee" I tried to convey to you and your younger siblings the relevance of the day and the sacrifice it represented.

Our lives were so removed from the sacrifice that was being made for our freedom and all that entails. History books and stories may move us for a moment, but the blessing of our protection is often accompanied by complacency and ignorance stemming from the security that protection offers. That day seven years ago, I thought perhaps rows upon rows of white headstones might impress upon you all and myself the price of freedom.

It was inspiring to drive through town after church today and see flag after flag. (It's funny how there are so many fewer people here in our new smalltown home, yet I've never seen so many flags on Memorial Day.) Not only was I inspired, I was proud. Of you.

When they asked all those in church to stand who had family members serving, I couldn't wait to get on my feet and was so thrilled as your siblings stood up too. You know how your brothers can't wait to sit down in church, but today they were as quick to stand as me. They were so proud of you too.

This afternoon I thought of you as I hung the flag, the one that used to hang in your bedroom, on the porch. It's blowing in the wind beside me now as I write.

How many hearts have lifted, mourned, rejoiced, and known the pride I know now as their eyes gazed on this symbol? While many have known the ultimate sacrifice of their life and breath, far more have known the sacrifice that has become familiar to you.

The relinquishment of personal freedom to preserve corporate freedom.

The laying down, putting, aside, or delaying of dreams to fulfill the one called America.

The giving up of precious time with family and friends within the comfort of home so "home" might remain a place of comfort, safety, and peace.

I see your sacrifice.

I see it in your eyes as the days and hours start counting down when you have to say goodbye.

And I see it in your furrowed brow when you talk about a future that feels so tentative.

I feel it in your frustration as you struggle to comprehend God's purposes in all the uncertainty of committing to a quest that is not in your control.

And I am grateful. And proud. Thank you.

My prayer for you is that for every day you serve God and our country in the military you will hold to the ideals He planted in your heart as a boy, remember the faithful men who have gone before you, and know the distinct honor that is yours as a man in the service of his country.

With love,

P.S. Did I say I'm proud of you? ;)

(Two years later . . an update:)

Dear Josh,

You did it. The rain, wind, and cold we all sat through to see you walk across that stage, shake the hand of the President of the United States, and receive your diploma from the United States Naval Academy will only serve to make the memory more indelible over the years.

It seems fitting that your family and friends would have to "suffer" a little bit after all your discomfort over the last five years. I even thought of you as I sat there shivering and wet in the dress I knew I shouldn't wear, remembering how often you have told me you like to force yourself to accept discomfort, cold, etc so you can handle it better. 

In other words, not to be a wimp.

You've taught me that. You've persevered through physical, spiritual, social, academic and life struggles. Watching you overcome gives me courage.

I'm proud of you, Josh. And not just because you've graduated from USNA and will now serve our country as a Naval Officer. I'm proud of the man you've become, the testimony you are to my heart of God's faithfulness and grace, and the privilege it is to be your mom.

Thank you for your service to our country. And thank you for being such an incredible son. 

I love you,