My family moved when I was going into 9th grade from a large metropolitan city to a smaller city. I thought I was moving to Mayberry. One of the difficult things about moving at a young age is that it is difficult if not impossible to stay in touch with friends you had as a child. I wrote letters to several people and some of my friends came to visit me at my new house. But, over time and as teenager life takes hold, I lost touch with most of them.
There was one girl I always wondered about, Kara Moss. She and I had many classes together as children and were friends, although never BFFs. Her father died in Vietnam. As I remember it, he was a helicopter pilot and got shot down. I believe he saw her only one time in her life and he died a few months after she was born although he may have never seen her, I cannot remember exactly.
Kara and I were patrols together in 7th grade and went to Washington, DC on a patrol trip. We went in March of 1983, just about 5 months after The Vietnam Memorial opened. There were 6 girls in our group from our school and 4 of us (including Kara and myself) hung out together during that trip. So, on my first visit to DC and the first time I ever saw The Wall, I was there with Kara. We looked her father’s name up and saw it on the wall. It was very moving, even as a 12 year old, to be there with someone whose father died in this war.
Kara and her parents had an impact on my life. I very rarely think of Vietnam without thinking about the sacrifices that her family made. I witnessed those sacrifices. Her mother became a single mom, who was a nurse and (apparently) had to work to support them. Many times my mom would give Kara a ride home from church or school. I can remember there were times when Kara forgot her key and had to climb in the garage through the cat door. I did not know her well enough to know exactly what emotions she experienced because of the circumstances of her life.
Just a month ago, I was fortunate enough to see her for the first time in 23 years. I cannot believe I recognized her. Maybe I did because I have thought about her so often over the years and wondered what happened to her. As it turns out, she lives only a few miles away from me.
As I think of what the families of our military must experience today, I often think of the children. One of my friends from work, John, was called up for active duty a few years ago. He is a single dad with 2 girls – one in high school and one in middle school. His parents moved into John’s house to take care of the children so that they could continue to go to the same school. His Humvee ran over a roadside bomb and he was injured. One of the men with him had to have his arm amputated. John’s jaw was broken and he also broke several ribs. I threw a party for him when he got home from the hospital and before he went back to Iraq. He went back to Iraq, voluntarily, to finish out his term. I prayed for John and his family everyday that he was gone because I did not want those girls to experience the loss my friend Kara must have experienced.
Last year, I had the opportunity to make arrangements for John and his girls to go see President Bush. They were actually able to meet the President and he signed John’s Purple Heart. That has to be the highlight of all my volunteer service over the years, the ability to make it possible for this man and his children who made sacrifices for my freedom to meet their Commander in Chief.
Since today is Veteran’s Day, I wanted to thank the men and women and the families of the men and women who serve our country voluntarily, risking their lives for our freedom.