Several years ago, Phillip was working for the St. Louis Cardinals and we were with their team in Springfield, Missouri. Not far from our apartment was Springfield National Cemetery. It looks like most National Cemeteries with the uniformed white stone grave markers in rows upon rows set in the green grass and surrounded by a low stone wall. I kept thinking that one day I would go walk through that cemetery. Memorial Day was approaching and some of the retired ladies that lived in our apartment complex started talking about the ceremony that would be held at the National Cemetery and they invited me to go. I told them I would probably go early because it was supposed to be blazing hot that day, but thanks for the invite. So, on the morning of the ceremony, I got up early and headed over before the crowds came in. It was already hot and muggy, so I decided I wouldn’t stay but a few minutes. As much as I adore those who serve and have served in the military, I had never visited a National Cemetery. I thought it would be just like visiting every other cemetery, but I was wrong. As I walked among the graves, reading marker after marker, the tears came. I was overwhelmed with the awe of what these men had done, and what they must have gone through is unimaginable. There were graves of men who had fought in every war after the Revolution. Missouri had been split during the Civil War, and there was a major battle near Springfield at Wilson’s Creek, so most of the graves were of Union and Confederate soldiers. The ones that got to me the most were the graves marked, “Unknown.” Oh what their families must have gone through. To send their men off to war and then some to never know what happened to them. What a burden on the heart it must have been. I stayed longer than a few minutes, more like a few hours. As the ceremony began, I found a shade tree away from the crowd and listened to the band play and the solemn ceremony begin. There was a Veteran sitting under another tree nearby, alone with his dog, and I had to wonder if he was thinking of friends he had lost who had fought alongside of him.
I was very young during the Vietnam War, but I remember enough to know that our country was not in a good place. I don’t know why as a six year old I could have such a feeling, but I did. It was different then because The Draft was in play and young men never knew when their number would come up and they’d be sent to the jungle to fight. I think the citizens of this country as a whole were more involved then because of that. Now that we have a volunteer force, it’s like we don’t think about what our troops could be doing overseas, except if something pops up on the news every now and then. Vietnam was the first war to be shown on the nightly news. Mama would try to keep me from seeing it, but every now and then I would catch video of men walking through the jungles over there, the POW’s being released, and the protests in the streets. We were living in Tennessee at the time, and I remember being in mama’s bedroom as she got off the phone with my grandparents who lived in South Carolina. Mama was sobbing because there was a chance her little brother would have to go to Vietnam. I cried with her. Luckily that never came to pass. The thing I most remember back then was the young boy in my Sunday School Class whose daddy was Missing in Action (MIA). It was a year or two after the phone call about my uncle. We had moved to South Carolina and Vietnam was still going on. The boy always looked so sad, and I felt so horrible for him. His father had gone to Vietnam and now was missing somewhere over in the jungle. He and his family went through years of not knowing what happened to his father. He went through school, college, got married and had his own family, still not knowing. It was only just a few years ago that his father’s remains were found and brought home. All of those years not knowing. I can’t imagine.
When I was a young coach’s wife, a newspaper reporter wanted to do a story about the wives of pro-baseball players and coaches. One of the older women was asked what this baseball life was like and she replied, “Like being in the Service.” Well, she was a nice lady, but I had to disagree with her answer. Fortunately, the reporter misinterpreted what she said as, “Circus.” Now that I could agree with. We are kind of like the circus. Ringling Brothers had their home base in Sarasota, Florida, and then went out on tour. In baseball, we have our “Off-Season” home and then we kind of go out on tour for the baseball season. Like the circus, baseball is entertainment. The Service, not so much.
When talking to me about my lifestyle, many people have asked me, “How do you do it?” I don’t really understand that question. This is just my life and yes I do a lot on my own because my husband is gone a lot, but I’m not sending my husband off to war. I hear young women these days talking a lot about how hard the baseball life is, and to tell you the truth, it bothers me to hear that. This morning I sent my husband off on a roadtrip. He’s going to coach his team in a ballgame. That team will be entertaining people. He didn’t get on a bus to be deployed to some foreign land where he could get killed by the enemy. Some ballplayers will fly on a plane to get to their destination. They won’t be flying over and parachuting into enemy territory, fighting to survive. I know where my husband is because I have a phone, a laptop, and Face Time, to keep in touch. He won’t be buried in a grave marked as, “Unknown.” I often think about that young boy in my Sunday School who after becoming a middle-aged man, finally brought his father home and it reminds me of what hard really is. I think about the men in the early years of our country who left their families to fight over a divided country and of the families who never heard from them again. They didn’t have the ways to communicate that we have today and if they did find out what happened to their loved ones who fought and died, it could have been months or even longer after the fact. That’s hard. I think about the men and women who come home now in those flag draped coffins, that’s hard. God bless them all.
I hope people will take more time than just today to think of those who sacrificed their lives for America. Think about what they went through as they lay dying, and think about their families. Maybe that will help put into perspective what we have in this country and how we should be thankful for those who died and made things less “hard” for us so that we can enjoy the freedoms to pursue our dreams and live life in a way that shows our gratitude.
Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.—John 15:13