As I celebrated this Thanksgiving, I gave thanks to so many. All of the men and women who wear our nation”s uniform and serve so that we can be safe and free. I also thank their loved ones and all of the amazing people who support those who serve in thousands of different ways. You truly make a difference.
My friend, Mary Ellen Salzano is one of them. Her 2004 article is timely. Mary Ellen”s son returned home. She is a valuable advocate for Veterans and Wounded Warriors and their family members. Mary Ellen is amazing and truly a force of nature. She accomplishes so much and we are in her debt for her support and compassion. I think that we need to think more of the Mothers, Fathers, Sisters, Brothers and of course the Spouses of those who serve. They serve too and make many sacrifices. It is hard for everyone and more difficult during the holidays.
Debbie Gregory, CEO
I am the one with a frayed yellow ribbon
Mary Ellen Salzano is the the mother of a Marine who has recently returned from Ramadi, Iraq. She recently wrote this op-ed for her local paper and has given permission for a reprint here. Her words capture the essence of what a military parent experiences during the holidays and during the other days of the year.
The days are long, yet the years are short. These words have been resounding for me this past week, as I look over the days of 2004 and the year of 2004. Often I wonder, where did the year go…seems just like yesterday that we were putting up decorations and baking cookies, yet I know that 300 and some days have passed. My perception of time changes from moment to moment. Some moments take forever like waiting to see our Marine at the gate in Hawaii for the first time since his return from Iraq, to the moments that are over in a heartbeat, like the two weeks we spent in Oahu on his turf, his permanent duty station. 2004 has been a year of personal and spiritual development and I am certain 2005 will be the same in diverse ways, ways I have never dreamed possible *or* probable.
Would enjoy seeing a reality show of soldiers and Marine”s loved ones back home. Meeting people and sharing about our son”s military service is always a unique experience. Never knowing if this revelation will bring out the wrath *or* the respect of the person I am speaking with Sometimes I am asked, “How do you do this?” So, for a slice of reality, I”ll share how many military parents feel on a day to day, minute by minute basis. I received portions of this in an email, and the author is unknown….I have changed bits and pieces to reflect my life, my thoughts and emotions.
You see me everyday going about my life as usual, *or* so it appears to you. I am your co-worker, your neighbor, the person sitting next to you at church, *or* at a ball game. I shop at the same grocery stores and fill my car at the same places you do. You can find me anywhere, you might see me anywhere, but do not be deceived by the normalcy of my actions and words. I have not been “normal” for months. I am the mother/father of an American soldier/Marine.
I am the one with the frayed yellow ribbon *or* photo of my son/daughter pinned on my clothing. It was fresh and new when our loved one first deployed months ago. We know the war is not over and will not be over…the war on terrorism is with us to stay. My child is in a place where bullets and grenades are as common as the birds singing outside your windows. I am dedicated to wearing my ribbon *or* pin until he comes home, because this reminds me and others to pray for him. So please, when you see someone wearing a yellow ribbon *or* a support your troops pin, whisper a prayer for their child *or* children and for all the others still protecting our country while facing the holidays and birthdays and celebrations without their families and friends.
My house is the one with the faded yellow ribbons and the United We Stand placards. Always remembering how our lives were changed on September 11, 2001. There is an American flag on a pole attached to the front porch, and black ribbons get attached on days of rememberance. A small red and white banner with a blue star in the middle hangs in a window. We were presented with this by our local American Legion. Gold Star parents are the ones whose sons *or* daughters do not return home. Our hearts are in a constant ache for them and a piece of our heart and soul is with them.
When you drive by a house with a banner *or* military flag waving, please pray for the family and the son *or* daughter who may be overseas *or* homeland choosing to defend our ways of life, which we take so very for granted.
My heart is warmed each time I pass a home *or* car with a yellow ribbon *or* support your troops magnet as I know you have an idea of the sacrifices being made. Thank you. For many emails are received sporadically as well as phone calls, yet at times, there are no calls *or* letters for weeks at a time, and the papers are filled with stories of wounded and casualites *or* negative comments and it pierces our souls.
When I read of a soldier *or* Marine that has been killed and the name has not yet been released by the Department of Defense pending notification of family, restlessness, depression, insomnia and even physical illness can rule my life until 24 hours have passed and the men in dress uniforms have not appeared at my door. You learn how to scan your neighborhood before you pull into your driveway, hoping there are no government cars parked outside your door. You then feel guilty as the relief turns to grief as you know others will be getting a visit. The days of taking a full breath are long passed, we sometimes need to remind ourselves to breathe.
Going to the store is a chore that many of us avoid until the cupboards run bare. If you see someone standing in front of the snack foods, with tears streaming down their face, stop and give them a hug. If you see a man and woman at the store buying tuna and crackers, beef jerky, hand sanitizers and baby wipes take a moment and see if they are filling a care package, and if you can, ask what you can provide. If you see a woman buying more than 3 sympathy cards at one time, and tears rolling down her face, know she is a part of an online support group who sends cards to those parents whose child has paid full price.
I am here among you, trying to carry on a semblance of a normal life and my holiday table will have a place setting and chair ready for our loved one whom we know will not be with us. Like so many others I am the parent, the mother of an child serving in the military. Because of their sacrifices, we sleep in our bed at night safe and free. Your prayers and words of love mean the world.
May your holy/holly/holidays be filled with the Light of Spirit, the love of the Divine, the Joy of Creation, and the Compassion of the Eternal. As always, I am grateful for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you and look forward to sharing a new year filled with wonders and joys. May each moment of your life be overflowing with blessings, prosperity, love and grace.
She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org