Wednesday, November 11, 2015

"Veteran's Day"

           “Is that Daddy?” queried four-year-old Lizzy as she pointed her finger at a man dressed in green fatigues.
         The young mother squeezed her daughter’s hand tighter as she answered, “No. I’ll tell you what you need to do. Look at the caps the men are wearing. Your daddy’s cap is dirty.”
         Ten-year-old Paula nodded in affirmation. “Dad needs a new hat.”
         Restlessly, the two children watched as airmen purposefully strode across the tarmac. Suddenly, Lizzy tugged free of her mother’s grasp and dashed toward a man wearing a dirty hat. She wrapped her arms tightly around his legs in the tightest bear hug her little arms could muster. The young man attempted to disengage himself from the small child, his face growing red as he scanned the area.
         “Elizabeth Anne,” the girl’s mother dashed forward. “This man isn’t your daddy!”
         “But his cap is really dirty!” Lizzy exclaimed earnestly.
         The airman pulled his cap into his hands, embarrassed by the child’s observation and confusion.
         “My husband’s been on a long TDY,” the mother explained.
         “I understand completely,” the man said as he sidestepped the little family and continued on his way.
         Hand on hip and head shaking in disapproval of her little sister’s faux pas, Paula pointed to another cluster of men approaching the fence line. “There he is!”
        And there he was! Dad with a brand new cap cocked on his head. He jogged away from the other men and scooped his girls into his arms.

Karl F. Abrams--circa 1948
         For years, my family teased me about the time I flung my arms around the man with the dirtiest cap, converting the story into a running joke that I threw myself at men. As an adult, though, I realize how much that childish mistake must have stung both of my parents. My mother did her best to talk about Dad when he left on long trips, but keeping his image strong in the mind of a four-year-old proved an almost impossible task. Tight on money, my parents didn’t have many photographs of each other around the house. After my mistake, my father gave me dashing picture of himself from when he first joined the Air Force to keep in my room.
         For Veterans Day, we pause to honor the men and women who serve in our military, but we should also reflect upon the sacrifice the families make. When a young man or woman decides to serve our country, his or her entire family becomes a military member. The soldier misses birthdays, Christmases, and anniversaries. The soldier misses that first step, the lost front tooth, the touchdown, and the first broken heart. Every moment of every day, the families of these men and women ache for the lost moments. Our tributes to these veterans must recognize the full scope of their sacrifices.

copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman