A Memorial Day Story and Song

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Here’s a story apropos for the week before Memorial Day.

 An Unlikely Friendship

They were quite the pair — she, a beautiful young girl with a bright, white smile; he, a homeless veteran with a scraggly beard and weathered face.

Their friendship started out slow. The girl began saying “hi” to Tony as she traveled to and from her workplace. Soon they were having small conversations, then regular talks and periodic lunches.

“Tony tells me about his war stories, loved ones, and who should win the Super Bowl,” she wrote in a Dec. 5, 2012, post on Reddit. “I tell Tony about my problems, loved ones, and how I don’t really care who should win the Super Bowl.”

From an outsider’s point of view, it seemed the young girl was offering the old, lonely man an ear. But the friendship was reciprocal.

After the passing of some time, the girl went through a difficult period emotionally, and Tony reportedly helped her navigate those tough personal choices.

One day she was walking around feeling sorry for herself when she felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned to find Tony giving her a concerned look.

He had something for her, he said. “From his army jacket, he pulled out a watch head. Tony took my hand and gently placed the broken antique in my palm.”

He went on to say: “I don’t have much but I wanted you to know that you have done what many others would not, simply by being my friend.”

The girl said she realized that when you extend yourself to those in need: “You get back not only what you gave, but infinitely more.”

I’ll close this Memorial Day article with lyrics from a song by Toby Keith, American Soldier:

I’m just trying to be a father, raise a daughter and a son
Be a lover to their mother, everything to everyone
Up and at ’em bright and early, I’m all business in my suit
Yeah, I’m dressed up for success, from my head down to my boots

I don’t do it for the money, there’s bills that I can’t pay
I don’t do it for the glory, I just do it anyway
Providing for our future’s my responsibility
Yeah, I’m real good under pressure, being all that I can be

And I can’t call in sick on Mondays when the weekend’s been too strong
I just work straight through the holidays, and sometimes all night long
You can bet that I stand ready when the wolf growls at the door
Hey, I’m solid, hey I’m steady, hey, I’m true down to the core

And I will always do my duty, no matter what the price
I’ve counted up the cost, I know the sacrifice
Oh, and I don’t want to die for you, but if dyin’s asked of me
I’ll bear that cross with honor, ‘cause freedom don’t come free

I’m an American soldier, an American
Beside my brothers and my sisters I will proudly take a stand
When liberty’s in jeopardy, I will always do what’s right
I’m out here on the front lines, sleep in peace tonight
American soldier, I’m an American soldier

This Memorial Day, thank God for American soldiers, past, present, and future.

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Freedom Isn’t Free

Flags Lowered

This past Tuesday would have been my father’s 100th birthday. Martin served in the U.S. Navy in San Diego in World War II. He was not assigned to combat duty and returned to his family at the end of the war with life and limb. Not all who defended our country were blessed in that way.

Sometime ago I read the following poem, author unknown:

I watched the flag pass by one day. It fluttered in the breeze.
A young Marine saluted it, and then he stood at ease.
I looked at him in uniform, so young, so tall, so proud.
With hair cut square and eyes alert, he’d stand out in a crowd.

I thought how many men like him had fallen through the years.
How many died on foreign soil, how many mothers’ tears?
How many pilots’ planes shot down? How many died at sea?
How many foxholes were soldiers’ graves? No, freedom isn’t free!

I heard the sound of Taps one night, when everything was still.
I listened to the bugler play and felt a sudden chill.
I wondered just how many times that Taps had meant ‘Amen.’
When a flag had draped a coffin of a brother or a friend.

I thought of all the children, of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands with interrupted lives.
I thought about a graveyard at the bottom of the sea;
Of unmarked graves in Arlington. No, freedom isn’t free!

God bless the women and men who put their lives on the line every day to protect our freedom and safety. Because of their sacrifices we can celebrate the 4th of July in peace and security, always remembering that freedom isn’t free!