Luke is home now. My "year" didn't even last a year. God had a different tasking for him -- taking care of the home front. It's a heavy, heavy job.
It's memorial day and as I look back on the last year I am struck by how different this holiday is to me than it was last year and how much I have changed emotionally, more than anything else.
Last year and every year before memorial day was a day you thought about the troops for a few minutes and then ate food. Lots and lots of good food.
Since then I have attended more military memorials than I can even remember. I have lived with the reality that I could be next. And I have watched as 23 sets of friends and families mourn their loved ones from our unit. And the deployment isn't even over yet.
In the last year I have cried for legitimate reasons more than any year in my life. (I say "legitimate reasons" because I did a lot of unwarranted crying when I was a teenager). My shoulders feel heavy with the emotion of loss and grief -- and I haven't even lost.
I am a weepy person these days. Anything even a little sad makes me start crying. I started reading an article the other day about a woman who accidentally killed her child when she forgot he was in the car. I started crying at the second paragraph. Last night I sat on the couch and sobbed for a solid 10 minutes of the memorial day concert on the National Mall. I can't watch any movies or shows about current military or their loved ones. I can't even make it through the previews. It's all too familiar. Entertainment is supposed to be escapism but those things are my reality. I don't want to experience them anymore than I have to.
One of the most impactful events in my life occurred a few weeks ago. We visited our fallen at Arlington National Cemetery -- my first time there. I stood in front of the grave of Sgt. Paci, whose wife I now know and spend time with, and sobbed. I cried for the loss and the pain that his family has experienced. I looked over the hundreds and hundreds of graves behind his and at all the empty space, ready for more fallen, in front of it. And I cried some more.
I was struck by the monumentalism of what we have undertaken by being in the military at all. Even joining is a sign that I am willing to make this sacrifice. ... am I?
And I was struck by the love of Christ and of God. That one of our soldiers would die for many has brought me to the ground emotionally over and over and over again (even while I write this). Do I ever stop to think that this is exactly what God did for me? That He is the mourning parent while his son is the lost soldier?
... this is piecemeal at best. And for the record, I don't cry constantly. But it doesn't take much to get me started.
This is what memorial day means to me: that few have died for many. ... and I will not have a "happy memorial day." I will have a somber one, filled with gratefulness and remembering.