Monday, May 31, 2010
They held a small ceremony on base this morning in honor of Memorial Day. Oliver had to go early and stand in formation during it, but I brought the boys and we stood in the back trying to be quiet. We missed part of the speeches because of a slow start getting out of the house, but that was all right becuase it wasn't until a woman played taps on her trumpet during the laying of the wreath that their attention was caught. Wyatt was especially interested, and stood at attention with his hand on his heart during the National Anthem when they raised the flags. He tugged my arm to get my attention, then pointed up at the MIA/POW flag they were raising.
"What's that?" he asked. I told him it was a flag to remind us of the service members that are missing.
He looked up at me quizzically and said, "There are soldiers missing?"
We then had a conversation where I tried to explain that sometimes those that wear the uniform don't come home. It was sobering, and made me realize that being from the submarine community has insulted our boys from the sort of fear that other military children have had to endure during this war.
Oliver's first command was the U.S.S. Alabama (gold, green, and blue crews - yes, that is a story in and of itself), a Trident submarine. Its mission is to hide our nuclear warheads. Our prayer was always that he would never go to war, because if he did, it meant this world of ours is much, much worse than it is now. The only fatalities we dealt with in six years were a sailor and his wife who were killed on the way home from a command ski trip we had gone on, a suicide (not on the boat), and one officer who was serving in Afghanistan. It was the first one that touched us the most, not the last one. I hadn't known the officer or his family at all, and Oliver only vaguely remembered him. I didn't bring the boys to the memorial service because they were too young and would have only disrupted it.
So, they don't know anyone who has suffered such a loss, nor do any of their friends. There just aren't that many submariners who end up in the sandbox, and everyone we know that went volunteered for various reasons. Thankfully, they've all come home.
I'm grateful our boys are somewhat insulated, although part of me feels guilty saying that. There are so many other parents who don't have the luxury of feeling that way. I didn't expect to be explaining such things to Wyatt today, but I'm glad he asked. I want him to know what others have given, and I hope he will carry it in his heart that there are others who wore the same uniform his daddy does who didn't come home.
When I was growing up, Memorial Day meant it was time to plant the garden. I didn't understand the true meaning until much later. I hope I can instill in my boys that it's something more than that. I think we all, military family or civilian, have a responsibility to teach our children that.