“Pay to all what is owed to them…respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” Romans 13:7 (ESV)
Growing up, the only subject I dreaded more than math was history. Boring fact after boring fact. I realized as soon as I could memorize them and take the necessary tests, I could forget them and move on with my real life, you know, the important stuff like cheerleading, music and my social life. Then one summer when I was a young teenager, my family drove our mini-motorhome from Louisiana to Washington, DC, and spent an entire week touring the sites. We stayed in a campground, walked to the subway each morning and rode into the city. We saw Martha’s Vineyard, Arlington Cemetery, the Smithsonian museums and every memorial we could squeeze in during that week. And we walked everywhere. I know that I have forgotten much of what happened during that week, but so much of it remains in my memories. I saw the Declaration of Independence up close and personal. I read the engraved words of President Lincoln on the wall of his memorial and walked those gigantic steps. I lay on the grass in front of the Washington Monument and gazed at the top, admiring the fact that no building in the city could be built taller than that tip. I watched President Reagan speak live on the front lawn of the White House and thought ok, this is cool. I’ll never forget seeing the tomb of the unknown soldier being guarded with such respect and never took my gaze off of the changing of those guards. And ever since I saw the eternal flame next to President Kennedy’s grave, I can’t get enough of his life’s story. Those moments made an impact on my life and started my journey of appreciation for the sacrifices that simple American men and women made for the future of our great country.
When I had my own children, I had a longing for them to experience what I did that summer in our nation’s capital. Since Jase has never been a very good traveler, I resigned to the fact that it probably would not happen. However, when Congressman Trent Franks from Arizona invited Mia to Washington in honor of the Mia Moo Fund, Jase just couldn’t say no to her, and we headed north. We didn’t have a week to spend there, but we mapped out our priorities and hit as much as possible in two days: Lincoln, Jefferson, Kennedy, the White House, National Treasury, Smithsonian, U.S. Capitol Building, Washington Monument and Arlington Cemetery. I got to watch all three of my children stare in amazement, just as I did all those years ago, as they watched the changing of the guard. We were fortunate to have a tour guide who told us so many interesting things, and we all listened intently, learning and trying to grasp the level of commitment, endurance and sacrifice of each life. What an honor to be able to see these things face to face.
(Changing of the guard, July 2014)
Last October, we visited the New London Submarine Base in Connecticut and were able to spend some time with two of my childhood best friends who married each other and chose a life of service in the U.S. Navy. We were able to tour the USS New Mexico, a submarine that recently returned from a mission, and saw the tight sleeping quarters, mess hall, and Mia even got to crawl into a missile cavity and write her name on the inner wall. It was an amazing and surreal experience to see first hand how my friend from Kindergarten has lived for countless months at a time. Through the years, they have lived in Guam, Hawaii, Italy and so many other places that I couldn’t keep track. Not only did Sam choose a life of commitment and service, but Jana has been a trooper herself in the fact that she and her two girls would pick up and move literally around the world on a moment’s notice and set up home again. She and her children would spend months alone while Sam was at sea (actually under the sea) unaware of what he was doing or if he was safe. Knowing that my friends were doing this while I was safe in my comfortable environment in the same town I’ve been in my entire life gave me a sense of pride for them but also a sense of whew, I’m glad that’s not me. I just don’t know how they do it.
(Jase, me, Jana and Sam Geiger, New London Submarine Base)
While visiting the base, I met a couple and their daughter who had just recently returned from deployment in Japan. With tears in their eyes, they shared with me how their older teenage daughter had contracted an infection and passed away while they were stationed there. The father had just set out to sea when he was called back because of the death of his daughter. What started out as a normal childhood sickness quickly turned into something much worse. It happened so quickly that they were still grappling with this fresh loss in their lives. Sometimes, we forget about the sacrifice that the families of servicemen and servicewomen make when it comes to normal healthcare, comfortable living conditions and the assurance of their children’s own safety.
While on the USS New Mexico, my family was lead into the officers’ dining room, gathered around their table and were presented with the American flag that flew on top of the submarine when it was surfaced during its last mission. They thanked us for supporting our military and praying for their safety. Us! What?! What we do seems so small and unimportant compared to what you do! But as we took that flag from their hands and listened to their gratitude for our support, tears streamed down my face. They long for appreciation. They don’t want to be forgotten or taken for granted.
(Reed and Cole entertaining the military families at the New London Submarine Base)
As we celebrate this Memorial Day in remembering the sacrifices that men and women have made while fighting for our country, please don’t forget the sacrifices that their families have made on their behalf for the same exact reasons. They have chosen this life. They love our country and are committed to keeping us safe, even in the wake of their own personal losses.
Do you know a personal story of someone’s sacrifice? My challenge today is simple: read a story today or this week of someone in the service who sacrificed their life or lifestyle for your freedom. You can find plenty online at the touch of a button—just another freedom we as Americans possess.
And plan a trip to our nation’s capital. Save, plan, map it out. You will NOT regret it.
Have an incredible week of gratitude!
(Written in honor of my incredible friends Sam and Jana Geiger. I am so proud to call you my friends.)