Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Greatest Gift - reposted from December 17, 2006

Every day at work, I wash down the bird droppings from the pigeons and dove that nest in my area. I’ve thought about ways to keep them out of the covered areas and really want to do it in a way that isn’t harmful to them. Their droppings are surely a health hazard and I get aggravated when each day, I drag out the water hose to flush it into the Plant sump.

Yesterday, I saw a pigeon all fluffed up, sitting on the ground and I instinctively knew it was sick. Instead of feeling justified, I felt nothing but pity. Under my breath I whispered a short prayer for its recovery. I guess I’m getting old, or mellow, or something. In my earlier days, I wouldn’t have given the poor bird much thought, as sad as that sounds.

Each day in the media and the online forums, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan is tossed back and forth with a detachment that is as bad as my former aloofness concerning sick birds. We complain about the war and the way it’s being handled and all the while "our boys" are in the thick of it, facing another Christmas away from home.

We want it to go away, so we can resume our lives, shop for Christmas and attend a joyous New Years party. I truly wish it would go away and we could experience peace on earth and good will to all men.

The troops in Iraq and other war zones occasionally have access to the Internet and most of them have a MySpace account. Being the techno-geek guy that I am, I too have an account and I regularly read what my son and other soldiers write. What I’ve experienced in my own life as a G.I. overseas in wartime has brought depth to their casual remarks.

"Life isn’t supposed to be this bad when you’re still young".
"I figure I’ve been through the worst of it and I’m ready to start living again".
"This is the worst place on earth"…

Christmas is approaching and for many of us Christian people, it marks the greatest day of the year, both for the celebration of the birth of the Christ child Jesus, but also as a time of gathering together. We exchange gifts, eat a lot of fattening food, and generally indulge ourselves to the point we all go on diets beginning January one. As my daughter Melody loves to say: "Good times!" and it surely is.

As an Airman, I spent four Christmas’ away from home. One in Basic Training, another in freezing Malmstrom AFB, Montana and two at steamy Takhli RTAFB, Thailand. I lost something in those four years and those that are away serving our country will lose something also.

* "He went to fight wars, For his country and his king, Of his honor and his glory, The people would sing.
Ooooh, what a lucky man he was…"

The truth is just the opposite. Our boys and girls come back old men and women and some bear physical and mental scars they will carry for the rest of their lives. Sometimes the scars are not apparent and surface many years later. Sometimes the scars are too hard for loved ones to bear and a separation takes place while the Veteran sorts it all out.

My son will be returning to Fort Sill, Oklahoma on January 7th, if everything goes as planned and after 10 days of "reintegration", he will be able to come home on leave. I looked this Army term up, as I found it peculiar and this is what I found: "The automatic energetic process, whereby the projected double is reintegrated with its physical/etheric body". In plain old Texas talk, what this means is, these soldiers have to be eased back into society, a little bit at a time. It’s supposed to take 10 days.

The greatest gift I could possibly get this Christmas season is the boy is still alive inside the man. He left for Iraq, a Veteran of Korea and Kuwait, but after 82 combat missions, 15 IED attacks and a Purple Heart medal, I do not know who this man might be when he comes back. God willing, my "boy" is still in there somewhere.

Footnote: On April 16, 2009 I found my Army Veteran son dead on a friends couch, the victim of depression, VA prescribed anti-anxiety pills and alcohol. His Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) finally bought him a ticket to the peace he so desperately craved.

Nick's passing left an unexpected gift though and at first it was difficult to cipher out. Over 600 people gathered at this funeral and our home for days on end to comfort each other and those he had affected. It was his parting gift.

I do not blame God and am trying to make sense of it all. I do have as a gift this Christmas season the greatest of all gifts and that is my Faith, my church, my faithful friends and my wonderful family...and I share the belief that someday we'll be reunitied with my hero son, Nick.

* "Lucky Man" Emerson, Lake & Palmer

1 comment:

Natalie said...

Knowing the end of that story makes it hard to read the beginning, but I'm so glad this Christmas season you feel the "greatest gift of all". Hang in there, my friend... you'll see that "boy" again.

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