49: Memorial Day

49: Memorial Day

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Spirit of America

Memorial Day

No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.

~James Allen

It was Memorial Day 2009 and I was flying out of Dallas/Fort Worth, bound for Seattle to film a segment of Disappeared . . . a Discovery Channel episode based on a quickly written book I’d crafted for a client.

Several military troops were making their way through the terminal after disembarking their flight. Some would be connecting to other flights while others were now home.

It saddened me to see our troops walking through the area without a single civilian stopping to say “thank you!” It was, after all, Memorial Day.

Approaching my designated waiting area, I thanked several of them as we passed.

I took a seat next to a pretty, young woman dressed in fatigues. She was busy working on an e-mail or a text, probably telling someone stateside of her location and that she’d be seeing them soon.

As I sat there next to this guardian of peace, I thought about how just a few hours earlier I had walked out to the pasture to feed my horses. Looking up into the beautiful clear Texas sky, there was nothing but blue sky.

There were no fighter jets overhead, no sound of exploding grenades or sniper fire — just the peaceful sound of freedom! Freedom to go about daily life without the threat of being gunned down by enemy fire.

I wanted to convey my thanks to the warrior sitting next to me, so on a scratch pad I wrote a note of gratitude and thanks. I can’t recall the exact wording but it went something like this: “I don’t know your name or what your background is or where your future will take you but I want to tell you how very proud of you I am for risking your life to keep me safe here at home. Thank you for your service to our country! God has blessed you because you are here and you’re alive. May you live your coming years in the same peace you’ve provided for others.”

I folded the paper in half, then again, then gently nudged her arm. She looked a little uncertain when I handed it to her. I gave her a smile, and then opened the book I had with me.

In my peripheral vision, I saw her carefully unfold the paper and read the message. As she finished, she sat for a moment in silence, perhaps recalling events in Iraq. Then she clutched the note to her chest as she bowed her head. Tears fell on the tablet she’d been using. She turned to me and said, “Thank you so much! You don’t know how much this means to me. I’ll keep this for the rest of my life. It will be in a pocket of whatever I’m wearing. It means that much to me.”

It was a breathless moment. A moment I’ll never forget.

I fought back my own emotions and responded, “I do know how much it means and that’s why I had to write it.”

As I stood, after hearing the boarding announcement, she rose as well and gave me a hug before I got in line for my safe trip to Seattle.

~Jan Sydnam

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