And then there are the real life heroes–those who are on the real battlefield, sacrificing everything they have to defend our God-given liberties. Not only are they on the frontlines fighting our enemies… these men and women actually do so with such great humility.
As Americans, it’s often easy for us to get distracted with the mundane and forget exactly what our soldiers endure to preserve our precious freedoms. Because they are usually restraining the “bad guys” over in foreign lands, it’s easy for us to take our brave warriors for granted here in the states. We can’t seem to help it- it’s our human “out of sight, out of mind” mentality.
While many of us are curled up on our cozy little couches, enjoying all of our nice comforts (and there’s nothing wrong with that), our troops have volunteered to be in harm’s way, thousands of miles away from their loved ones, carrying 200-pound back backs across rough terrain. They are exposed to the harshest weather conditions and endure atrocities most of us can’t even begin to comprehend. If you ask any of them, they will tell you that war is certainly no picnic. That’s why their homecoming is so incredibly sweet for them and for their families.
This past Sunday, I had the privilege of attending a homecoming ceremony at Fort Campbell, KY for soldiers returning home after eight long grueling months in Afghanistan (one of them happened to be my nephew, by the way). And I can tell you that this homecoming was an experience that I will never get over as long as I live:
- Moms, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins were all anxiously waiting to catch the first peek of their favorite soldier stepping off of the aircraft.
- Beautiful ladies were all “dolled up” and ready to reunite with their sweethearts.
- Children were dressed in red, white, and blue, holding signs to show their mommy or daddy just how much they were missed.
- Newborn babies were meeting their daddy’s for the very first time.
- American flags, homemade signs, and red, white and blue were displayed all over the Fort Campbell hanger.
- Incredible joy filled the Kentucky air.
- Cries of excitement and relief echoed throughout the evening festivities.
- Tears were streaming down the cheeks of anyone who was present (myself included).
Once they removed their equipment, the soldiers formed up outside of the ceremony site. In this video, you can just feel the emotion as they marched into the facility for a brief ceremony (you might want to turn down your volume; lots of happy squealing):
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the soldiers, families, and friends reunited for 15 Minutes.
The soldiers then departed to turn in equipment at their unit area. They were allowed to leave once the equipment turn-in was completed.
After the soldiers were released, my family and I finally got to spend some quality time with my amazingly awesome nephew, SPC Tyler Smith and his two friends: PFC Morgan Edwards and PFC Michael Lasham.
Since Edwards and Lasham’s families were too far away (in CA) to make it for the homecoming ceremony, my family adopted them for a couple days and (at least we tried) gave them a proper welcome home.
What impressed me most about these three men was their Christian faith. In fact, they openly talked about it. They even had their favorite Bible verses tattooed on their arms. Michael Lasham also told me what helped him cope (in Afghanistan) was reading his Bible every single day. Wow… I can certainly learn a great deal from these amazing guys!
For my family, our prayers have been answered and our favorite soldier has safely returned home. Yet, there is such a pang in my heart for the families who do not share the same happy outcome. I will always have a special place for our fallen soldiers and for their families. They are certainly not forgotten by any means. As John 15:13 states:
Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Their ultimate sacrifice has not gone unnoticed from the heavens.
I am eternally grateful to every man and to every woman who ever wears the uniform. For your sacrifice and for your humility, you will always be “red carpet” material in my book!