I came across this speech I gave 6 years ago on the 4th of July. I can’t believe the wonderful city of Belton, Texas invited my battle buddy, Sandra Lee Smith, and me to be the “Grand Marshalls” of this parade! It was a great day! Not much to add to my remarks so here they are. Sean and CSM AJ Smith were deployed once again at the time. Both men had deployed a LOT over the years. This would be the last one for both of them. (Hallelujah!)
Thank you all for welcoming Sandra and I so warmly this morning! We are delighted to be here and honored to be a part of the Belton 4th of July parade! Our husbands are currently deployed to the Middle East with Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve. They are so sorry to miss this wonderful, patriotic tradition. But we know, as in all things, both of our husbands are with us in Spirit. No matter where we are physically, we are always connected at the heart and we are in each others’ thoughts. We will be sure to tell them all about our wonderful morning with the people of Belton.
Sandra and I, on behalf of our Soldiers, Sean & AJ, and with all of Ft. Hood also want to thank the Belton & the Chamber of Commerce for the great work you do on a regular basis to support our Military families in this amazing community.
A great example of that effort is the Belton Area Military Spouses Support Group, led by Ann Jackson. What a great initiative. Thanks for taking care of one another; it’s what we Mil families do best, after taking care of our own Service Members and our own families.
I am very proud, as I know Sandra is, to be a Military Spouse, an Army Spouse. Military Spouses are determined, strong yet flexible. We are hopeful, patriotic, and selfless in that we are willing and proud to send our Service Member into Harm’s way and far away to defend our country and our freedoms. The birth of that freedom is, of course, what we celebrate today, which is just as it should be. We need to be grateful for this great country we live in. Not perfect, but still with our many faults and frailties, the best place for freedom and opportunity. As Spouses, even though it is extremely difficult and counter to everything within us to let our Soldiers go to combat zones, we understand the importance of their jobs and their commitment to serving others in this way. It is against human nature to say to the person you love most, “Run toward the fire, Honey!”. But it is their job, and we Spouses and other family members understand that. And so we support them each step of the way.
10 years ago my husband was a brigade commander in Ramadi, Iraq. Times were tough and the Spouses back in Germany were striving to remain all those things I mentioned above – hopeful, patriotic, and selfless and strong. We were determined to do those things. We were determined to lift one another up when one of us fell, or felt weak, or was nearing despair.
Many of us cried together in our chapels when we attended a memorial service for one of our fallen Ready 1st Soldiers. We prayed together, too.
We Spouses laughed together and ate together, worshipped together, and played together. We carpooled and volunteered at the schools, chapel, with our Family Readiness Groups, and at the Red Cross or USO. A lot of the things we did were the same things we did when our Soldiers were home and not fighting in a war. But we could not forget, no matter what we were doing, where our Soldiers were and how much danger they were in. It was hard not to recall when there seemed to be a memorial service just about every week.
I have the utmost respect for our chaplains, both those who moved forward with our Troops, and those in the Rear Detachment whose job it was to comfort those who mourned. They did an outstanding job. And as I would stand there during the playing of Taps and hear the sobbing and sighing beside me and behind me, I would pray that this would be the last one. And I would stare at the beautiful young face of the Soldier who had perished and think of and pray for his family whose loss was so much greater than ours.
The Spouses in those instances, too many instances, were grieving with the families and, at the same time, praying for their own Soldier who was still over there fighting.
It was a terrible time, a nightmare from which we felt we could not wake up. But then one day, it ended for our Brigade; they came home. Those who were not gone from us too soon, or wounded to the point where they had to be hospitalized, came home.
The aftermath of that combat experience stays with us to this day. 10 years later I am in contact with many of our Brigade’s families, including some of our wounded and our Gold Star families. The latter live with their loss every day and always will.
But they live, from my observation, determined to honor the memory of their loved one. They are motivated by that ultimate sacrifice to do more for others than they ever would have, if things had been different.
The life of their fallen Soldier will always be remembered, but while they are beyond sad, they are also inspired by the amazing sacrifice of their Soldier, to the point of wanting to give back to the world because that Soldier no longer can. He or she gave everything and so the family members more often than not feel they must give something, too. Sometimes it’s big like starting a non-profit to benefit families of the fallen and wounded.
But for many it can also be as basic as living a life of integrity. Gold Star families very often honor their loved ones who are no longer with them by being honest, working hard, being thoughtful, a good friend, a positive and productive person. While we thank them for their service and ask for blessings upon them for their sacrifice, we too, as Americans, can do similar things. We can live lives of integrity
and honor our fallen Service members, work hard, be honest and thoughtful, be a friend, and positive and productive. I know many of us do. I believe as citizens we owe those who have gone before us as defenders of freedom a debt of gratitude that cannot be repaid, but can be acknowledged, and their service & sacrifice honored by our conduct.
Our Gold Star families are strong and they are brave. Brave doesn’t mean you’re not ever afraid; it means you go on anyway. Bravery is fighting back your fear and choking back your tears and moving forward. Never really leaving the fallen behind because the one you love will always be a part of your life, someone who helped make you who you are.
On this day when we celebrate our nation’s independence, let us never forget those who have gone before us to keep us safe and to keep us free.
Some of our current Military members live in your lovely city, they attend your schools, your houses of worship, they eat in your restaurants and shop in your stores. They are among you and they are happy to be here, I’m sure. We who live on post also frequent your businesses and we are all happy and thankful for the support that all the fine citizens here give to us – where you can, when you can, and when you identify a need. We are grateful for you all.
Our US military makes the world a better place by its role in the country and in the world as a force for good. And that’s something about which we can all be proud. We are also proud of the Ft. Hood Soldiers’ part in that, and yours, too, as a city that supports them and their families, and where many of our number live, as well.
Thanks very much for all you do and thanks for being here today.
May God bless our Military members, and keep those who are deployed safe, may He heal the wounded, both physically and emotionally, may all those who pass on be brought to Himself; God bless the families of all the deployed, the wounded, and the deceased with His peace, and we ask for that peace in the world, we pray for the victims of war, and we ask the Lord to bless this Nation of ours on our birthday, our Independence Day! Happy 4th of July! How blessed are we?