May 30, 2005
Are you one of those who only views the last Monday in May
Day, another day off, the end of a three-day weekend, and
the start of
a shortened four-day work week?
Please dont make that mistake this year. I used to
do the same thing.
Make this years celebration last a bit longer for those
men and women
who still face many months overseas.
People who visit our home often ask me why we have a small
with a red border and two centered blue stars, one strategically
positioned on top of the other, hanging in the front window.
have to do is look at the larger, three-foot by five-foot
Force flag next to it to get the answer.
Honoring, remembering, thanking, and praying for our men
and women in
uniform and in harms way is a daily event at our house.
At the height
of the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, we had three young
men in the
Wild Blue Yonder uniforms of the Air Force. My nephew (son
of my next
older brother) was the first to complete his service, spending
his time in the remote island of Diego Garcia, loading bombs
B-2s, B-52s and any other flying fortress that
banged away at the
The two stars on the small Blue Star Flag at home are for
Sergeant Son and our Senior Airman Son-in-Law. I have never
in my life
had anyone close to me serving in the military. It was always
somebody else whom I gave a passing thought to
in the past. I
usually thought about a former high school classmate, Frank
who was killed in Vietnam.
Now, for the last almost four years, like so many other parents,
been on the edge of my seat every time there is a report of
bomber on the streets of Baghdad, or a helicopter crash in
any other event that has killed or maimed our brave warriors.
always listened for military branch identifiers relative to
news: Two Marines were wounded today or An
Army unit lost one of its
. because as tragic as that was, I thanked
God the words Air
Force werent associated with the bad news.
Dont get me wrong. It was VERY possible that my Son
could be with a
Marine or Army unit. As a Special Forces Combat Control Team
his job was to be smack dab in the middle of the hostilities.
your Son does this kind of work, you dont get much detail
and NO up
front notice of where hes going, with whom, how long
hell be there,
and of course, the nature of the mission.
My Son would joke that his job was to paint buildings,
Special Forces jargon for identifying places where the Taliban
Afghanistan) or the Iraqi terrorists were holding out or where
stashed their bombs and weaponry. Once he made that assessment,
job was to call in the jet bombers and paint the building
a laser on the enemy target for the bomber.
I knew he worked with other Special Forces heroes like Navy
Delta Forces, Army Rangers, Marine Recon, or Green Berets,
Pentagons new interdisciplinary team concept, because
CNN and the
network news would report that Task Force so-and-so
different branches) took a city, or saved someone, etc. I
knew he went
on dangerous missions where he dropped out of the sky, dove
of dangerous waters, rode black or camouflage motorcycles
mountainous terrains of foreign lands, and explored the dark
of ancient caves in search of Osama Bin Laden and his lackeys.
But I never got a real handle on what he did until a few
weeks ago when
he walked onto center stage at a church to greet his beautiful
bride-to-be as she walked down the aisle to hook up arm-in-arm
for their meeting of a lifetime. He was wearing his dress
Scarlet Red Special Tactics beret and my breath was taken
away when I
saw his recent military history sewn on, and pinned to, his
The motto of the Air Force Special Tactics combat controllers
There. I could see my Son had witnessed all the dangers
of war from a front-row seat in the theater of war.
His uniform told an incredible story of accomplishment. One
sniper and another spoke to the many languages
he had apparently
learned to speak, courtesy of the worlds greatest linguistics
the Defense Language Institute. I later learned that Romanian,
Arabic, Russian, and a few others were now part of his lexicon.
wearing his master HALO jump wings, his static line wings
and his SCUBA
diver medal. By the way, HALO stands for High Altitude, Low
which means these guys jump out of perfectly good airplanes
12,500 feet (2 ½ miles) and 20,000 feet (almost 5 miles)
an oxygen mask and not opening the parachute until the last
moment. Its danger personified, but thats why
we call them heroes.
I also noticed that my Son had four rows of ribbons on his
addition to all the metal pins, more patches on his arm, and
braided cord that encircled his left shoulder and armpit.
the ribbons have Oak Leaf Clusters, which means he earned
repeatedly. It was then that I realized how lucky I was; not
have a fantastic Son, but to have an Air Force Special Tactics
Sergeant Son who survived his multiple tours of Afghanistan
It was more than my emotions could bear. While the women
in the church
teared-up at the sight of a beautiful bide in her wonderful
the cute flower girl, etc., I was thanking God for giving
my Son the
chance to come home from the war and start a new life with
I realized how lucky I was and I thought about all those war
didnt come home alive and the awful, horrible anguish
must feel and will feel forever. My eyesight was getting blurry
the tears as I tried to celebrate and share in my Sons
moment, and at the same time, honor and appreciate the pain
loved ones who would never get to see or experience the joy
their hero or heroine embark on a new lifes journey.
My Son had made a decision when he went into the Air Force
would not get married anytime soon because he did not want
to drag a
family around the world, and in a worst case scenario, he
to leave a young widow or infant children behind. To him,
would come only after the sacrifice to freedom had been made,
was lucky enough to find his life partner. Smart kid.
However, the road to his military service and eventually
wasnt without pain. When you serve in Special Forces
as my Son has
done, you cant talk about most of the missions you have
belt. In many cases, you will never be able to talk about
civilians because the events are classified, which is code
mission that never happened, in a place that doesnt
exist, and against
enemies who werent there.
Some missions have a sunset clause on them, which means that
there is a
10-year moratorium on talking about them. I am not really
in the gory details. I just hope my Son can handle what he
through in terms of his mental capabilities. So far, so good.
physical pain he had to deal with, before and after his ankle
reconstructed from his unmentionable injury was just a minor
inconvenience to him. The self-proclaimed 172 pounds
of steel and sex
appeal worked out every day, even when he had to hobble
on one foot or
hop along with crutches to get to the workout equipment. When
cautioned him to take it easy, a term that doesnt exist
vocabulary, he worked even harder to strengthen all the muscles
the ankle to help it heal faster. His dedicated young fiancée,
knew better than to try and talk sense into a Combat Control
Leader, helped nurse him to a full recovery.
They apparently teach you a lot more than weapons and bad
guys in the
military. They teach you to survive and excel, even when you
temporary use of one of your limbs. And they must also teach
to make the right decisions about people, because my Sons
choice for a
wife was spectacular. More than her physical beauty, her incredible
intelligence, and her sassy savvy, is the unmistakable look
that sparkles, and at the same time, paints the target
on my Sons
heart with laser-like precision.
Our Son-in-Law, meanwhile, has been much more fortunate in
assignments overseas, and now state-side, have him protecting
military resources. He cant talk about the dangerous
aspects of his
work either, but weve also gotten used to that. Hes
still in the
service so we still worry about him and the rest of our defenders.
Even though were down to only one of our youngsters
in the military
now that my Son has moved on to a new life, Memorial Day is
just an extra day for a barbecue or a trip. Its a day
to remember why
we live in the greatest nation in the world, with all its
with the freedom to debate those flaws and fix them, without
worry about your life being at risk from some repressive secret
government agent or some bomb-toting suicidal maniac rushing
his 72 fairy tale virgins in hell.
We live in the land of the free, my friends, because those
we honor on
Memorial Day, and should thank every day, are also the reason
in the home of the brave.
P.S. The history of the Blue Star Flag, also known
as the Service
Flag, dates back to the World War I era. If you would like
more, please go to http://cybersarges.tripod.com/bluestarflgs.html