My National Holiday-Hubby Returns from Iraq

Today is my personal holiday called the Happiest Day Ever. I initiated this holiday nine years ago when my husband returned home from Iraq on September 17, 2003. Many times throughout these last nine years, I have thought about how special that day was and how lucky I am that I have that day to celebrate.  So…I remember it every year. Many other spouses and parents have days seared in their minds and unfortunately it is a day of mourning. September 17th was as happy as the day was sad when he left for war. A homecoming definitely replaces the void and helplessness you feel when you see the one you love board a bus to catch a plane to a war. Frankly, I didn’t know where in this big world he was for nearly two months…and communication was monthly at best in the beginning.

While in Iraq my husband, Clay, met a BBC reporter, Michael Williams, at a checkpoint. Clay befriended the reporter during their brief encounter and told him a little about himself, how he had just gotten married prior to deployment, and how he hadn’t talked to me since he left (that had been over a month).  The reporter asked if there was anything he could do for Clay and my husband requested that he call me to tell me he had seen him alive and well. I remember my stomaching dropping to the floor when I heard the voice-mail on my answering machine where Mr. Williams was requesting me to return his phone call. I would check my answering machine a 100 times a day before I figured out the beauty of call forwarding. I thought the worst. I rushed home from work to call.  Even though there were literally explosions in the background noise, it was so great to hear that British accent (I love an accent and pretty much everything British) tell me Clay was alive and well. I don’t even know if Mr. Williams remembers this event…but his good deed made a monumental impression on me.

On September 17th all my worries and prayers of nearly nine months were answered.  Will I see him again? Will he return alive? Will he be healthy? Will he be emotionally or physically scarred? Will life resume as normal? Can we pick up where we left off?

As I have shared in an earlier blog post, there are friends we share for seasons. There were a few wives from the unit that I spoke to regularly. We constantly tried to piece together shreds of information to bring us some peace of mind. The day before our Marines were scheduled to arrive we got a hotel room and practically stayed up all night due to the pending excitement of reuniting with our spouses. With our families, we arrived at the reserve center before the sun was up. We waited and waited…and then we saw our soldiers marching up the hill towards us. People were cheering and chanting.

A sigh of relief swept over the entire crowd. As our Marines stopped in formation for their final orders…I could see my husband right in front of me. He was directing his squad. I decided that Uncle Sam had him long enough…so I broke into formation and gave him a big kiss…all the other wives, parents, and kids seemed to follow.

That’s me eating Clay’s face when I jumped in formation.

I know my husband was briefly embarrassed, but he knows me well enough to know I didn’t care!

Homeward Bound

I keep this picture from September 17, 2003 in my office as a reminder to put things in perspective on days when the impossible seems…well, darn near impossible and I feel like my interactions have been with people that have drank too much crazy juice. It’s not that great of a picture of us, our local newspaper actually captured it (thanks for documenting our story), but for me it is a symbol of blessings and thankfulness. So happy Happiest Day Ever to me! And you…celebrate with me! I hope your day is filled with “happy” too! Maybe you should create your own personal holiday to celebrate your spoonful.

Today my spoon is full of happy!

Red, White, and You

This weekend is designated as time to memorialize. Two years ago (geez I can’t believe it has been that long) I wrote an opinion piece for my local paper after attending a Memorial Day Service. You know the saying… if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. So today I am reposting what I shared in 2010.

2008 McLean County VFW Memorial Day Service

On May 31st the 21 gun salute echoed, the taps rang out, and the flags blew in the breeze at the Memorial Day Ceremony at Calhoun Cemetery sponsored by the McLean County Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5415.

Words were spoken and songs were sung memorializing our County’s men and women who had made great sacrifices in the name of freedom. I watched as elderly men and women slowly made their way from their cars to the service lugging their lawn chairs and wearing various arrangements of red, white, and blue. In their eyes glared the memories of a war, most likely WWII, where they experienced the loss of comrades, received word that a family member was missing in action, or recalled the memory of sending their solider off to war. I hope you have not personally experienced the grief of war. The experience of my husband deploying in 2003 for Operation Iraqi Freedom, influenced my perspective and provided me a new-found appreciation for veterans and their families.

Beverly Edds-WW II Veteran

Even though my grandfather was a WWII veteran, I don’t recall attending a Memorial Service before my husband’s deployment because I didn’t comprehend or appreciate the value of the moment. Memorial Weekend was a time that kicked off the start of summer, family BBQs, summer sales, and a long weekend to relax. I would be remiss if I didn’t admit we still enjoy these aspects of Memorial Weekend in my family, but we have added a new tradition of “memorializing” the soldiers’ sacrifices that made this weekend (and the rest of the year) free to enjoy. Memorial Weekend holds a different meaning for me now; I am one of the lucky ones-my solider came home.

Each year, I try to attend a Memorial Service out of thanks and gratitude that my love one returned from war without any mental or physical handicaps. I attend because of the moments I get to share with him because he made it back to American soil alive. I attend for the holidays, the birthdays, the everyday moments that won’t be missed because he came home.

One of the best days of my life…Clay returning from Iraq

If you don’t have a soldier in your life that you can celebrate, then I encourage you to memorialize and celebrate the life of the many men and women who never made it home for holiday celebrations, for the birth of their child, for all the dreams and moments that were left unfilled.

I have traveled to many countries, all which offer amazing sights, great food, and fine people. Sure, there is progress and equality to be created here on our own soil, but there is no place quite like the United States of America.

And for a great place to call home, I thank the many generations of veterans who carved out the freedoms of our great nation.

I would like to take this opportunity encourage you to honor the true meaning of Memorial Day. Work or other obligations may prevent you from attending an official service; however, I encourage you to be grateful all year to the men and women who sacrificed all. Appreciate and take the time to explain to your children why we line our streets with American Flags this time of year, stop by and visit a memorial at a cemetery, tell a veteran that you appreciate them, and the next time you place your hand on your heart when you hear the national anthem, do so in honor of all the hearts that ache for someone who never returned from war.

Today my spoon is full of graditude for those that served the red, white, and blue!