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veterans

Life happens. People fight battles every day and show their truest and most vulnerable selves. However, not everyone returns or as they left, and those are to whom Honor Flights offers comfort, praise, encouragement, and surrounds them, as well as their friends and family, with support.

While waiting in Reagan National Airport, in Washington DC, to fly to my own father-in-law’s funeral, I witnessed an amazing thing.  As flights came in and out of the gates and people streamed to their destinations, people around me began to stand.  They moved closer to the center of the waiting area.  They began to clap and the noise of applause swelled as older men and women moved between them.

It was not a celebrity, although I certainly wondered what was going on and drawing so much attention, but more and more people moved to the middle of the space and lined several deep.  A long line of veterans filed past.  Some walking on their own, some in wheelchairs, and most accompanied by a family member or guardian.  Each wore a t-shirt that said that “Veteran” and the war that they had fought in.  Most had been embattled in Vietnam, but there were some from the Korean War as well as a few from World War II.  Personnel from all levels of service were present, and as I watched, hundreds and hundreds of soldiers continued to stream from the gates bringing them to Washington D.C. to tour Arlington Cemetery and the many memorials and museums.

Honor Flight ( https://www.honorflight.org/ )is a non-profit that brings veterans to Washington to see the war memorials, honor the fallen, and find comfort with their comrades, their brothers and sisters-in-arms.   They flew almost 21,000 veterans to the Nation’s Capital in 2016 and fly out of 131 hubs in 45 states across the United States.  Their waiting list is 28,000 strong.

I was unaware of their mission or organization.  Yet, standing there, observing the emotional and physical energy of those around me, it occurred to me how many of these men came home from Vietnam broken and dishonored.  The country did not support the war as a whole and many who fought were not welcomed kindly.

What a look of disbelief on the faces of those people almost fifty years later!  Applause and smiles surrounded them, the clapping and cheering growing in pace and sound.  It was such a moving experience to be a part of and feel the surge of pride and grateful thanks to those whose service has changed our country in profound ways.

Perhaps the experiences are heightened in Washington D.C. of every political downturn and bitter partisan expression.  This was a unified group of citizens, undefined by any distinguishing factor, who rose in a wave of compassion and gratitude for so many unsung and unheralded.

This was a homecoming most never experienced and a privilege for those of us who did not live in those times of conflict and fear.  It was a precious opportunity to thank our veterans, and their families, whose sacrifice was so acute and whose lives were forever changed.  I stood there for more than 30 minutes observing this crowd arriving, moving through the airport, and accepting the love and gratitude they had to wait almost fifty years to receive.  It was a powerful moment for these veterans and for those of us who stood to honor them.  It was indeed a privilege to thank them for their service and wish them well on the next part of their journey home.

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J.K. Simmons accepts the Best Supporting Actor statue at the Academy Awards on Sunday in Los Angeles. In his speech, he told the audience to call mom and dad.

“Call your mom. Call your dad.”

That simple call to action from J.K. Simmons went viral during Sunday’s Oscar telecast.

“Call your mom, everybody,” said Simmons on the air. “I’m told there’s like a billion people or so (watching). Call your mom. Call your dad, if you are lucky enough to have a parent or two alive on this planet. Don’t text. Don’t e-mail. Call ’em on the phone. Tell them you love them, and thank them, and listen to them for as long as they want to talk to you.”

Tapping his hand over his heart, he concluded, “Thank you, Mom and Dad.”

Incredibly, some people actually chose to negatively and sarcastically respond to his heartfelt speech. Even in the beauty of JK Simmons’ empathic and genuine life lesson learned, some chose to dismantle it into some 20 seconds of reflected fame and 140 characters of cynical disdain.  

 

jk simmons call your mother

Today, we can be blocked, disconnected, deleted and dismissed.  It is easy to be callous and careless, when you have one or two parents still alive.  For all the emancipation and estrangement, a parent welcomes (except for unusual circumstances) an adult child’s attempt at communication and reconciliation.

You are blessed to be someone’s child.

Losing a parent hurts, even when you are older in years, because your heart never forgets.  The person who used to tell you that he or she is proud of you is gone. The source of your personal history, and witness to it, is no longer there to be your cheerleader or sounding board.

Having experienced three losses so close together, I understand that feeling of grief and mourning.  We continue to talk to our loved ones, but  we cannot hear their replies.

Grief_elise thomlinson

Simmons told the Detroit Free Press that his Oscar comments were spontaneous and reflect what he’s learned since losing his father, who died in 2012, and his mother, who passed away in 2014.

“That sort of just fell out of my mouth, and it’s because I am a parent, because I loved my parents deeply and they were such wonderful parents and role models and we lost both of them in the last couple of years,” he said by phone. “I think it’s one of those things you can’t know until you know, like having a baby. You can’t know what it’s like until it happens. I had a wonderful relationship with my parents, but you can’t know what it feels like to be an orphan. Even if you’re an orphan when you’re 59 years old, you’re still an orphan. And it’s hard, so I want people to appreciate what they have.”

Make the most of the gifts that you have been given and recognize that it is, indeed, a gift.

Let those whom you love know just how much they matter ~ and come to appreciate the value and wisdom they carry.

Thank you JK Simmons for your life-affirming message, and your empathy, to turn your singular moment into one others could share and learn from.

 
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