Mark and I have never celebrated Independence Day together in person. Each year we’ve known each other, he has traveled home to Wisconsin, to visit his parents and twin brother. Because of the cost and lack of adequate vacation time, I never joined him. So not being together on such an important holiday is normal…
…except that this time it’s because he’s in Afghanistan.
One can imagine my excitement about getting to Skype with him on the 4th of July! It was the first time I was able to SEE him since he left, and I seriously believe that video chat is the most blessed technological invention ever. That evening, I attended the FC Dallas soccer game for free, thanks to the DFW Military Wives, Fiances, and Girlfriends Meetup group. But who knew that a soccer game could be so emotional.
At halftime, The American Fallen Soldiers Project honored one of our fallen heroes by unveiling a drawn portrait of him and presenting it to his family. While they and a small group of uniformed soldiers were gathered on the field, a bagpiper played Amazing Grace as a slideshow played on the big screens. I did not know this family, but I had a really hard time keeping it together. I met up with Tara Crooks from the Army Wife Network during the fireworks show, and she expressed the same sentiment.
Since Mark’s first deployment and then working through post-combat issues, I’ve become a little more hardened, a little less emotional, and I don’t easily cry anymore. However, when it comes to patriotism and our troops, events like these hit close to home. Before I met Mark, I considered myself patriotic and thought I knew what patriotism meant. But now, I am able to experience a deep love and pride that I never knew before. I’m also able to appreciate more deeply the freedoms that our soldiers defend…because I have seen what Mark has sacrificed and is willing to give.
Before the game, I sat in Frisco Square eating some delicious barbeque. (And yes, I made a point of patronizing the food stand that displayed a “Support Our Troops” sign!) I asked a lady sitting next to me if she could take my picture, because “I’m here by myself.” She asked why, and I proceeded to tell her about Mark. She was genuinely interested and asked pointed questions about what it’s like in Afghanistan. I gave her honest answers, according to what Mark has told me, and she was intrigued by stories from the frontlines. Everyone is war weary and it’s too easy to tune out reality, especially if you’re a non-military family. But the truth is, civilians want to hear about our soldiers, no matter the politics surrounding war. They want to put real-life faces to what is happening, and I know this lady truly cared.
Patriotism and supporting our troops is so much more than flying our flag or slapping a yellow ribbon magnet on our cars. It means actually becoming invested in what our military does for our country. It means gathering as fellow Americans to recognize those who have given the ultimate sacrifice and those who are currently willing to give all. I witnessed that in my hometown last week, and I am proud and thankful to live in such a supportive, patriotic community. ~Malori~
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