Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day - Honor, Pride and Tears

Our family has so much to be proud of on Veteran's Day. Leif's father served our country for 24 years in the army. His brother, Peter Anthony, is in his 17th year of service in the Air Force (21st if you count his four years as a cadet at the Air Force Academy). My brother,Donovan, served in the army in the late 1960s. His son Rick served in the navy and his son Timothy served in the army. My brother-in-law DeWayne served in the army.

And Leif served as an infantry machine gunner, from January 1998 until May 2001, when he was medically boarded out of the service due to asthma that was somehow caused by his service and exacerbated by it when he was required to be out in freezing temperatures or to overexert carrying his incredibly heavy gear and gun. This was a terrible blow to him, but he was proud of his service and identified with it, considered himself a warrior, and was fiercely dedicated to his oath to uphold the United States Constitution.

Today was a day of honor, pride and tears, honor for Leif and all the military members of our family and nation, pride for their service, and tears for those who have fallen, whether in battle, because of their service, or otherwise.

Yesterday there was a piece on television about servicemembers and veterans committing suicide, and how the rate has climbed precipitously. Leif could be counted among those numbers, a medically retired, disabled veteran who never found his place in the civilian world.

Today we went to Bay Pines National Cemetery where Leif is inurned. I wore one of his dog tags, which you can see in the photo above. I knew I would break down, and I did. Peter and I both cried our hearts out for our lost son. I kept saying, "I want him back!"

I know that's impossible. I know the truth. But that's how I feel, and I'll never stop feeling that way. I miss him so!

I suppose that a grief counselor would say that I'm in the denial stage, but I would deny that. I know Leif is dead. I know he isn't coming back. I don't say it can't be so. But I also don't want to let him go.

I ran my hands over the stone, over his niche. I leaned against it and cried and cried.

Leif's friend and former girlfriend, Donna, came there today, too. She placed a single red rose for him and cried with us. Thank you, Donna, for caring and for honoring him.

The photo of Leif at the top of this post was probably taken in 1998, before he was promoted to Specialist 4, before the problems with asthma set in.

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