I have been thinking of Audie Murphy all day. Someone shared the memory of this valiant man who received every medal the US has to offer including the Medal of Honor, plus medals from France and Belgium - and he was only 20 at the time - and he has been here, in my heart, all day.
I say again to every serviceman who has ever served: thank you.
I've learned that many servicemen resent this, who think it is a non-military's way to unload guilt.
Not from me.
I say thank you for every sleepless night you have spent remembering, wanting more than anything to forget. For the nightmares, for the screaming fits, for the black depressions.
I say thank you for leaving a safe bed and the love of family and risking it all.
I say thank you to and for every buddy you saw die that you wanted to save.
I say thank you to every medic who served in a hot zone, a cool zone, a hospital ship, and remembers every GI your hands touched, who worked thru 36 hour and more shifts uncomplainingly, asleep on your feet with broken hearts, who still see faces and hear voices when they remember.
I say thank you to each heart that breaks when a car drives up to an anxious home and two men in full dress uniform step out.
I say thank you to each child that cries himself to sleep, crying for a daddy or mommy they will never see again this side of heaven.
I say thank you for the respectful hands who fire the 21 gun salutes and fold the flags with precision, respect, and sympathy. For the men who guard, thru summer heat and winter snow and driving rain, the tomb of some of the unknown who returned to the American soil they died for.
I don't say it lightly. I treasure one such flag.
Sir, or Ma'am, I thank you for your service. I pray the Lord will bless you with a warm home and a heart that never forgets, but has been able to let the memories have their way and be gone, visiting less and less often.
We tell those who have left us to "rest in peace." The living deserve no less. Remember those who were lost. Then honor them by living long and happily for them as well as yourself.
And if you can't banish the voices and the faces and the sounds and the smells, you are not weak.
It is recognized now as PTSD and there is treatment for it. Please find some. There is no reason for your family to lose you, too. Audie Murphy never knew what he had was treatable. He tried to silence the voices and faces and sounds and smells and began to be disrespected towards the end of his short life. This to a man who fought off 250 of the enemy alone, atop a burning enemy tank loaded with explosives that could blow up any second - and he was seriously wounded at the time! Sad to say, but true: People forget. I give you my solemn promise, I will never forget as God lets me draw breath.
His wife and family were Christians - and, sadly, up until that last plane ride that crashed, he resisted opening his heart to God. His wife asked the old preacher Vernon McGee to preach a salvation message at his funeral - he said a lot of Hollywood was there, and it seemed every eye was steely and defiant and full of hatred as he preached. I hope he was wrong. I hope that souls were pierced and hearts broke open. And I pray that as the plane began it's fatal dive, Audie cried out to the God Who held him as he went to hell and back the first time, and kept him from going back to hell again.
And for anyone out there who is idiot enough to think it can't be that bad, get a copy of Audie Murphy's combat memories or watch the movie, "To Hell and Back" both of the same title - easily available on Amazon, even for Kindle. It will open your eyes and make the next time you thank a serviceman or vet come from the bottom of your safe little heart.If you would like a more in-depth telling, warts and all, of his struggles for the rest of his life, I highly recommend the book, "The Price of Valor", a well-researched and informative book, from his childhood on. To Hell and Back was written not as an autobiography, but as a way to remember his buddies that died - to the end of his days he said that the dead were the ones who deserved the medals, not him.
And so, I say again, I thank you for your service, from the bottom of my heart and tears streaming down my face. And if that offends you, I'm not sorry.
Because I will never stop saying it.