Every Monday, I start my week by highlighting what made me happy from the previous week, because gratitude is the first step in learning how to be happier.
This week I got fantastic news on the work front and spent a ton of time hanging out with my family and friends here in Iowa. My husband ran in a 5K and I about burst with pride to see him succeed. I had lots of moments of joy this week.
But I don’t want to talk about any of that today.
Today I want to tell you about a trip to the cemetery.
At 6am on Saturday morning, my 12 year old and his grandfather went down to the local cemetery and helped raise 200 flags. Each flag honors a veteran, living or dead, from Parkersburg. Devin helped erect this 20-foot pole:
It bears his great grandfather’s name – a man whose blue eyes sparkled even as his aged body became fragile, a man who adored his great grandson and earned the name “Big Papa” just a few years before his death. Several decades earlier, he went off to war in a foreign land. He came back with a wife and memories we know little about.
Saturday afternoon, Jared, Emma, and I returned to the same cemetery with Jared’s parents and nephew. We brought flowers and more flags and set them around the graves of my mother-in-law’s parents. This great grandfather died just over one year ago after battling Alzheimer’s. He got to enjoy many holidays with his great grandchildren, but never the 4th of July – he hadn’t been able to enjoy fireworks since returning from Korea.
Both of these men gave part of their youth in service to their country. They risked their lives, and then they came home and had families. Today those families remember them with flowers, flags, photos, and stories, and we give thanks for safe homecomings.
These men did not come home.
They did not raise families or hold great grandbabies.
Instead of family dinners, funny nicknames, late night kisses and holiday picnics, these men earned stone monuments.
Today, I want to say thank you.
Although your names are not all known, and many of your graves remain unmarked, your deeds are not forgotten. I pray that you found peace.
And to the wives, mothers, fathers, and children who sacrifice their loved ones so that I may sleep soundly with mine: thank you, too.