a Patriotic special encounter

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I really enjoy the holidays, pretty much all of them.  I especially like the holidays where family gets together and we can all enjoy, un-hurried “hanging out” times.

Today, was one of those special times with my receiving an unexpected encounter.  My wife, daughters, and two grand kids  had just gotten to the pool for another day in the blistering sun, looking forward to being refreshed by the cool splashing water, and very precious times of playing “Marco Polo’, or “Motorboat, Motorboat” or “Airplane” .

While we were unloading all of our necessary pool supplies in a shady oasis in the pool area, we saw an older man, John, who  was finding comfort in the cool shade.  My wife made some friendly comment thanking him for his service to our country and how  “grand pa was  ready to go in and start playing with his grand kids in the pool”.

The older man commented that he was not able to go into the pool, because of some disease. He then mentioned another health problem due to “agent orange” from his time of service in the Viet Nam war.   

As I have been challenged lately by the Lord to be more respectful of all human life, I continued to show concern to this man and asked John questions about not only his health, but about his war experiences, as well as his perspective on how those experiences intersected with him having faith.

It was so enjoyable. Such a relaxed conversation I had with his man as he spoke of his time in the war. With my curiosity peaked, and my questions flowing from them, John told me about some of his war experiences that both shocked me, and well, just disturbed me.  I will spare you the details he shared with me.

The one story he left me with that has seemed to stay with me most was this.  It wasn’t the death he saw all too frequently, ( some stories he shared with me), or the health issues that resulted from his time in the service (depression, diabetes, PTSD, uncontrolled anger), but the his experience  when he returned to the United States,.

He was on a plane loaded with servicemen at the airport and the plane was a few hundred yards away from the gate.  However,  the pilot didn’t seem to have any intention of moving the plane up to the gate, which puzzled the soldiers.  Some of the anxious servicemen were starting to get agitated looking forward to the cheers they expected to receive at the terminal, yet everything was being delayed.

After about an hour, one of the airline staff on the plane told the servicemen that they were waiting for a bus to come out to the plane to load them up and take them to a nearby army base.  There was no crowd of cheering people waiting to shower them with their gratitude, gifts, and smiles.  Instead, the airlines official told them they were having to board these military personnel on a bus because, in actuality, what awaited them in the terminal were protesters who were just looking for the opportunity to curse these soldiers, spit at them, and show in every conceivable way they could, their objections to the U.S. being in this war and these soldiers having a part in it.

The lack of gratitude and disrespect they experienced on their return “home” I can’t even begin to relate to, yet I found that even imagining what they experienced made me almost verbally gasp.

Friends, this 4th of July take a moment to show gratitude to our servicemen for their willingness to have laid down their life and for protecting the freedoms of our country.  I get it that some folks may not agree with war in general, or our involvement in a specific war, but let me encourage you to put your right to your own opinions aside for a few moments, or even hours and empathize with one of our military whose life was forever changed, fighting on your behalf and mine.