Monday, November 11, 2013

A Salute

Today is Veteran's Day.  A day to honor all of those who have served or are serving in the armed forces to protect the freedoms, liberty, and pursuit of happiness in the United States of America.  The sacrifices endured by those who serve are tremendous.  Today, as I do everyday, I salute you!

My Grandfather

My Father
I am very proud of my family's long history of service to the United States military in times of both peace and war.  Dating all the way back to the American Revolutionary War, my ancestors have fought, and some lost their lives, to protect the freedoms we all so easily take for granted. While we have visions of Sugar Plum Fairies, they have memories of things that would make most of us cringe in fear. 

My grandfather was sent to the South Pacific to fight during WWII. While there, they were encouraged to journal about their experiences and to write letters home. While doing a project of my ancestry for my college history class, my grandfather allowed me to read an event in his journal.

He didn't like talking about his experience during WWII and he didn't allow many, if any at all, to read his journal up to that point. 

He was in his tent trying to sleep when enemy forces started bombing. Before he could move, the tent next to my grandfather's was hit by a bomb.  The soldiers, ranging in age from 18 years to middle aged men, were all killed. In his journal he couldn't understand why/how that tent was hit and all of those lives lost, but he and his tent mates were still alive. The pain of war was vivid and excruciating.

My grandfather would speak about the lighter aspects of his service. He recalled being part of the first group to arrive at their base in the South Pacific and being greeted by the women there............ all topless.

The Commanding Officer of the base was horrified. To say the servicemen were distracted by their presence would be an understatement. He immediately ordered all of the women who would be serving on base to be given shirts.  The women all agreed to wear the shirts. The ladies all showed up the next day with the shirts on - but with holes cut out for their breasts. That memory always made my grandfather laugh with great delight.

My father served in the United States Air Force.  He met my mother while "getting jets" in Mobile, Alabama. She worked in payroll and he was a fighter pilot who drove a convertible.  They were married 6 weeks later. LOL!

While my dad has some fun, lighthearted memories serving our country during his years in the Air Force, he also has memories he can't ever forget. Whether in war-time or peace, sacrifices by our servicemen and women are made. 

In a span of 3 years while overseas, not only did my dad lose his best friend, but he lost 5 other very close friends as well. His memories of their lives, well-lived (and boy did those fighter pilots know how to P.A.R.T.Y.!) are what he chooses to focus on.

While he and my mom were overseas with the USAF, our nation experienced a great tragedy:  the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

While most everyone knows how horrified the people of the United States were, they aren't really aware of what that particular act did to our military.  Word immediately spread to my dad's base in England and they were immediately put on the highest level of alert.

My dad quickly called my mother, who recalls that phone call as if it were yesterday: 

"He's dead. (Alert sirens began sounding in the background) I'll call you if I'm able.  I love you."

And with that, my dad quickly hung up the phone.

At that time, my parents had a 2 year old, 1 year old, and a 4 month old. My dad climbed into his fighter jet, with a full arsenal of weapons and guns attached, ready to go to war.

For days my dad sat in his fighter jet at the end of the runway, with engines throttled up and ready to blaze a trail to whatever destination the United States military sent him to destroy.  As much as he wanted to be with his family during this uncertain time, he had a job to do and he had to stay focused on his potential mission.

My mom could not eat or sleep during this time. She knew if my father was sent into war, there was a very good possibility of him being killed in action.  To be in a foreign country, having to care for 3 young children and not show her concern or fear to her children, takes nerves of steel.  To continue caring for their family for days on end, with her heart in her throat, is beyond my comprehension.  But, if you've ever wondered where I get my strength from, you can bet my mother and my father are the source.

After my parents were transferred back to the mainland, the Air Force threw a party for the officers on their base. I was born about 9 months later. My thanks to the Commanding Officer who organized that party!

One of the many responsibilities my dad was charged with at his new base was informing next of kin when a fighter pilot at the base perished. With a clergyman and my mother to help the loved ones in those first devastating moments, my dad would inform them of their loss. 

The loved ones knew the minute they saw the group walking toward them that the worst had happened: their beloved had paid the ultimate sacrifice. The shock and grief was so great, the expressions of condolence my dad spoke to them were barely heard. 

The reactions of the families left behind are forever etched on my parents' hearts. There is nothing that can ever erase, or ease, those memories. The honor and privilege they feel for being allowed to have a hand in helping protect our country and maintain our freedoms were well worth their own sacrifices.

Make no mistake, whether in times of war or peace, our service members and their families, sacrifice for our freedoms. Each one of you have my family's deepest gratitude.

To all of those who have served, who are serving, and to the families of all of those: Thank you! May God bless you and protect you now and always. Your service and your sacrifice are deeply appreciated.

Christie Bielss

Dear Lord,
Today we honor our veterans,
worthy men and women
who gave their best
when they were called upon
to serve and protect their country.
We pray that you will bless them, Lord,
for their unselfish service
in the continual struggle
to preserve our freedoms, our safety,
and our country’s heritage, for all of us.
Bless them abundantly
for the hardships they faced,
for the sacrifices they made
for their many different contributions
to America’s victories
over tyranny and oppression.
We respect them, we thank them,
we honor them, we are proud of them,
and we pray that you will watch over
these special people
and bless them with peace and happiness.
In Jesus’ name we pray; Amen. ~ Joanna Fuchs

by:  Christie Bielss

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