September 11th is a day that is in the minds and hearts of everyone; we can easily recall where we were when we heard the news.
For me, it has an additional meaning; one very close to my heart.
My brother-in-law was a member of the Army National Guard since the first day he was old enough to sign up. For the past 25 years or so, I have seen him in pictures wearing fatigues and heard about some of the things he has seen and done. When he married my sister in 1990, he wore his dress uniform, and I admired his commitment to service.
The morning of September 11th I was at my sister’s house as it was vacation. I had planned to spend the week there, relaxing as they went off to work and my niece to the babysitter’s house. I had woken up when they all left for the day, and was on the couch reading with a cup of coffee. I had the TV on as background noise.
I looked up from my book and was startled at what I saw playing out before me. I thought it was a horrible movie at first, until I realized I was watching a news report. My heart fell and I watched all morning, crying. But it didn’t become real to me until my sister and brother-in-law got home.
I took my then 2-year-old niece outside to play so they could watch the news coverage and talk together. They spent quite some time alone, and then my sister went outside with us. I walked inside to see my brother-in-law putting a packed bag by the door, “just in case”.
We were on pins and needles wondering if his unit was going to be called to duty. My sister tried not to show her worry, and they attempted to stay strong for my niece, who was used to daddy “playing army” on the weekends, but not being away for an extended time. Thankfully, the call didn’t come.
It was then that I truly realized how much our men and women in the armed forces give to their country. I saw the fear in my sister, and the commitment in my brother-in-law to accept whatever decision came. I saw what it would do to our own close-knit family, and especially to my niece, if daddy went away and never came back. It broke my heart to realize how many wonderful men and women have given their lives in service to our country. And especially how difficult it was for the families, for the children to see their loved ones walk out the door to something unknown.
This Memorial Day weekend, let us remember the reason we get this day off, and what it celebrates. It began after the Civil War, to commemorate those who died in that war, and then after World War I, extended to include anyone who died in service to their country. In the early 1900s, the red poppy became a symbol of remembrance for those who have died. Let us remember as we plan our beginning of summer barbeques, to honor the reason behind the holiday.
Today, I say a thank you to my brother-in-law, Lieutenant Colonel Gilberto Paliza, Retired, who for me has truly modeled honor and strength. I pray for all those who are currently serving or retired from the armed forces. Placing your life in the hands of others in service to our country is the most courageous thing I can imagine. May the Lord keep you safe and return you home to your loved ones.
I send my prayers and love to the families of those who have lost someone in the armed forces. I pray you will know that they are never forgotten, and I thank you for your sacrifice in their name.
I celebrate those who have died, the unsung heroes, the fallen soldiers. May your souls dance in the heavenly Kingdom, and rest in peace knowing you have done well in serving your people. Well done, beloved child of God.
God of power and mercy,
you destroy war and put down earthly pride.
Banish violence from our midst and wipe away our tears,
that we may all deserve to be called your sons
Keep in your mercy those men and women
who have died in the cause of freedom
and bring them safely
into your kingdom of justice and peace.
We ask this though Jesus Christ our Lord.
prayer from www.usccb.org, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops