I come from a long line of veterans. My father, uncles and cousins served in every branch of the military. My father was in the Air Force when he married my mother and when I was born. My uncles were in the Navy, Coast Guard and merchant marines. My cousin served many years in the Army. My middle son and his wife also served in the Army, in fact, that is where they met and became friends, and later, fell in love. My youngest is now serving in the Navy. My father-in-law, his brothers and his brother-in-law were all Marines, and all in Viet Nam at the same time. I come from a long line of veterans and I joined a family who also proudly served their country.
While my husband nor I served in the military, service to our country and community has been ingrained in us. We support our military veterans and proudly raise our flag. We honor those who sacrificed to keep us free. For many, being in the military is a job, for others a calling, but for those of us who are free today because of our veterans, it is a blessing.
We are proud to be American citizens and even with all the blemishes we still feel this country is a beauty. She is not perfect for she is made up of humans and none of us are perfect. We strive to be better to continue to build bridges that allow us to reach the other side. I don’t know what it means to be a person of color in this country, but I can open my heart and listen. I don’t know what it means to be a non-Christian in a country built on “in God we Trust,” but I can be respectful of our differences and learn acceptance. I don’t know what it means to be gay, handicapped or anyway marginalized but I can be a friend, an advocate, a neighbor.
As we celebrate Veteran’s Day, let us remember what they fought for…OUR FREEDOM. All men (and women) are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Thank you to all who have served and to all those who are still serving this country. Thank you for doing a difficult job. God Bless the USA.
Running at Sunset
A possible scene for Titanium Blue
The setting sun bathed the land in shades of rose. Jenna loved this time of day. She’d forgotten how peaceful it felt to stretch her legs and push her body, breathing in the cool, crisp autumn air. The holidays would soon be upon them and she might not have another chance to run like this. She missed running. After working at the café and juggling being a single mom, most nights it was all she could do to stay awake past Toby’s bedtime. She lengthened her stride, pouring out the tension and stress of the past weeks. Tar was back. Her heart stuttered in her chest and she blinked back tears. She wasn’t fooling anyone with her denials, especially not herself. Jenna was still in love with her husband. Why did love have to hurt so much? When did I become a coward? He’d battled his addiction to pain medicine. She could see in his clear topaz eyes that he wasn’t using. When her husband had returned from Afghanistan minus his lower leg, he’d shut her out. He’d almost pushed her out the door. I should have stayed and fought, she thought, listening to the tap of her feet on the pavement. She focused on landing lightly on her toes, barely letting her heel touch before pushing off again. Pine and cedar mingled with the heavy dew bringing the scent of the river, briny and laden with the threat of rain. The smell of the marshlands a unique essence she couldn’t describe, a combination of mud and brackish water, life and death, the ancient past and the future. She ran down the lane to the marina, filling her lungs with the life-giving force of the Pamlico. Steps, heavy and consistent behind her, alarmed her, turning she sighed in relief and longing as her husband ran towards her. “You’re running again?” She stared down at his space-age looking leg. Tar nodded, running in place beside her. “The new leg is designed for running—titanium.” She smiled and fell into step beside him. “Are you going to run in the Veteran’s Day Five K?” Tar darted a glance her way. “I didn’t know there was one.” Jenna nodded, her pony tail brushing against her neck like a lover’s caress, her cheeks pinkened with desire and she was thankful for the glow of the setting sun staining everything with its rosy tint. “The town uses it to raise money for the Veteran’s Memorial in the park and the Veteran’s brunch.” Tar’s dark brow raised, and a smile hovered on his handsome face. “Another of Dana’s projects?” Jenna nodded. “She’s roped me into helping but I told her I wanted to run. I swear that girl could talk a grizzly bear into giving piggy back rides.” Tar snorted. “I’ve managed to stay under her radar.” Jenna laughed an idea coming to mind. “She’d love to honor some of the local veterans…” Tar shook his head. Before he could protest, she said, “It wouldn’t be a big deal. Maybe you and some of your buddies would start the run?” “Are you talking about wounded vets?” There was a harshness in his voice. “No, not just. I think it would be great to have each era represented. My dad and some of the older guys are talking about walking. They don’t want to be up in front because they know they’ll be slower. If you have some guys that are runners, it would be great if they could start the run…” her voice trailed off. Tar visibly relaxed, letting go of the chip on his shoulder. Jenna let out the breath she’d been holding unaware she’d been doing so. Desire and fear, love and anger, all warred inside her. They’d been the perfect couple before he’d lost his leg. At least, she and all their friends had thought so. She blinked back tears aware of the strain of the past few minutes. “I’ll ask some of the guys I know,” Tar’s deep voice interrupted her thoughts. “It would be an honor to lead the run.” Jenna stared at him. Her attention off the road, she stumbled. Tar’s big, callused hands kept her from falling on her face. “Whoa, be careful.” Resuming her pace, Jenna found her voice. “Thanks, for catching me and thanks…” “You know I’m putting myself in Dana sights,” he said shaking his head. “A smart Marine knows, you should never volunteer for a dangerous mission.” Jenna frowned. “Is there such a thing as a smart Marine?” He growled. Jenna increased her speed. Laughing, Tar chased her. As the sun set deepened from pink to purple, Jenna became aware of her own deepening feelings. Could she risk loving this man again? As they ran in companionable silence, she let the thought seep into her heart like the cool, damp air into her lungs. Maybe they deserved a second chance.
When I first started working for the Pamlico News it was just in time for the Viet Nam Veteran’s Homecoming in Charlotte, North Carolina. In preparations for attending the homecoming with my father-in-law, I did several interviews with veterans of the Viet Nam War. The men and women I spoke to were from every branch of service. They told stories that could make your blood run cold and some that could fill you with joy. Surprisingly, none felt the were heroes. The common mantra was “I was just doing my job”.
My friends Robert and Avonne Quinn were newly weds when Robert was drafted. He did not want to go to Viet Nam and chose not to enlist, hoping to just do his job and come home.
“When we landed in Viet Nam we had to sit on the tarmac and extinguish our cigarettes and all lights. There was a fire fight going on in the town near the air port. When the bus finally got through to pick us up, the driver sped through town barely keeping the tires on the road in his haste to get us to the base alive,” Robert told me when I did my interview with him. Yet he says he is not a hero.
He was lucky to get a job on a boat ferrying supplies up and down the river. “We had to sleep on our boat to keep them from being stolen or sabotaged.” Mr. Quinn told of supplies and boats blowing up and ports being sabotaged.
Young, afraid, away from home and his life, Mr. Quinn was one of the lucky ones. He came home to his wife and the baby girl who was born while he was gone.
He was a hero and still is, he did his job and supported his country to the best of his ability.
When my son, Jason came home from his first tour of Afghanistan, he came home to a country who called him a hero. His experience was so different from those retuning from Viet Nam but it was still difficult. He didn’t know how to handle being called a hero. He wasn’t on the front line, he simply did his job.
Mr. Robert helped me understand, there is a guilt the survivors bring home. When so many are lost and left behind.
As we celebrate Veteran’s Day, I am reminded of the men and women who do not call themselves heroes. Who like my son and my friend, just feel they are doing their job. Being in the military is the ultimate team program. It works because everyone does their job. Each job is important because one cannot win a battle alone.
To all the men and women who are serving or have served their country, Thank you. You are true heroes and I appreciate your sacrifices.
God Bless America!
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