THE OP-ED REPORTER: Dear Reader: I offer this modified true story of an American soldier, and a feisty young man, who never burned a flag, and grew up to understand the meaning of respect, along with the millions like him, who paid the ultimate price, to provide the freedom under the First Amendment to the "perfect idiot" of a politically correct persuasion to burn the American flag.
Because of another mother's precious child, I am looking out my office window into a world of endless opportunity and freedom. A legacy battled for with the indelible American spirit, by our sons and daughters, not for what is yet to come, but for an individual belief and love of all that is left behind. I am thankful that such men and women have lived.
As I sit here, I am pummeled by a whispering from within, spinning my thoughts in circles. . .circles even today's exceptional-tasting coffee does nothing to soothe my motherly soul. For once again, war has not determined who is right . . .only who is left.
It was 24 hours ago, death passed quietly before me in my quaint little town. The evil of pure unadulterated ignorance of a changing world, has finally penetrated the serenity of our lives.
Will it ever end - nations wanting something more than they value life and peace? Must it be only the dead who have seen the end of war? Will there ever be a time a child would ask: "Mother, what is war?"
I can't help thinking of this story destined to repeat itself somewhere, as a child asks: "Why won't Daddy come home?
Sadly fades, once vivid moments of human love and interaction - illusory reflections of memories past - infectious smiles of joy - echoes of laughter, and a reminder of the hopes and dreams of a once-vibrant voice struck down somewhere in the world.
In silence she suffers, barely holding it together, while searching for the right words to answer her inquisitive yet impressionable son, who no longer just accepts, but seeks the insight of reasoning - Why?
"Well Billy," as she clears her throat wondering what this lanky 10-year-old will think. "Your dad explained it this way. When people like your dad decided to fight it's to make things better for us. They and your dad have given us a very special gift, so you and I would always be free to live the way we choose and to be able to speak our minds, even if it's wrong."
I sip what is left of my coffee, now bitter - now cold, and acknowledge the truism of my insignificant inconvenience in the cup compared to the savagery of war, and choose to remember the gentleness of one yesterday if only for the moment. . .and a story of life, of hope and everlasting possibilities.
This was supposed to be a beautiful day. I sense the soft whispering winds and blinking sunlit rays of summer. There is an air of somber pause and community pride masking sallow faces, swollen eyes and an occasional tear of emotion, wiped away by the cuff of someone's hand.
The only sounds are that of a convoy hum from brightly polished motorcycles, and a silent sea of American flags vibrating as if in a proud salute over the saddle bags of veterans from around the country. Side by side, they roll down the main fairway, escorting one of their own to a place of peaceful solitude.
A mother cries and I cry, here in this silent world free of tribulation. Floral scents seem to penetrate the senses passing mysteriously above what's left of the morning dew, while the flicker of one destined eternal flame awaits its lighting. Playfully, soaring seagulls flutter and dive over a pond of water lilies, oblivious of the fact that another American has given his life that all men might live free.
Feeling a chill run down my spine, my thought is one of both anger and sorrow. How does one comfort those who grieve such a loss? As I look around into the blank stares of military faces I see a melting pot of ethnic backgrounds, disciplined soldiers, whose eyes glaze over with human emotion.
I find myself sighing, almost shrugging my shoulders and shaking my head when the silence is broken by a twenty-one gun salute, and a weeping mother, her hands visibly shaking, reaches out almost as if with an eager yearning as a folded American flag is gently placed into her hands. -- Today, she must accept this act of honor and a country's respect, as the material finality of the life and service of her son Billy.
I learned later with the rest of our community: "When Billy was home on his last leave, one of the things he did with his buddies was to light up a cigar. He smoked a bit of it, then wrapped it up and tuck it in his friend's freezer to finish when he got back."
While in the ravaged dusty terrain of Afghanistan his Humvee was attacked. Though Billy was hit in the leg, he kept shooting. "When I heard he had gone down fighting and saving others, I was not surprised," one of his friends said, "It sounded exactly like something he would do."
As for the frozen cigar, when the rest of Billy's friends found out, they gathered over the weekend, lit the cigar and passed it around, while telling stories about their boyhood friend. It is what he would want us to do. That is why he left it. He wants us to remember all the good times.
Yes, life happened, and time changed the little boy who as a Peewee B didn't want to go onto the football field and cried before each practice, the grown teenager of his state championship days, and the consummate prankster testing the boundaries of his youth, and most of all a man of heart who decided, a soldier he must be.
I can only hope, the strapping young man, who once donned a number 84 red-and-white football jersey, and the ultimate "football mom," who once was filled with bubbly emotion and proud smiles, will one day hear the voice of God: . . . "I See Your Tears,"
"Billy Jakes Martin - Rise! Mother behold your son."
(c) C.CeCe Day Hill, All Rights Reserved - E-mail: email@example.com