For the second year in a row I have the honor of spending Memorial Day weekend on a military base. Last year my oldest son, Nathaniel Charles Buedefeldt joined the Army and finished basic training at Fort Jackson in North Carolina the week before Memorial day. My wife, Rhonda, son, Gabriel, and I flew in to attend his graduation. While there, we found that we were able to drive him to Fort Belvoir in Virginia for his advanced training and we arrived on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend. Due to a mix-up in his orders, he was unable to report until after the holiday weekend and rather than leave him to sit alone in the base hotel, we delayed our flight and spent the weekend with him on base. Being there among the soldiers and with our son now a soldier in his own right brought the meaning of the holiday into much sharper focus.
Nathan has wanted to be in the military, since he was old enough to play soldier. He always was the leader in the kids war games. Strategy and planning were like second nature to him. He always knew that he would be a soldier, like his grandfather and my grandfather before him.
Due to an undetected kidney infection at some point early in life, Nathan had a defective kidney removed when he was nine. Many people live with one kidney with no adverse effects and we thought nothing of it beyond the courage and determination that he showed during the preparation, surgery, and recovery. He endured it all with a stoic determination which gave a preview of the determination that he has shown in pursuing his goal of military service. Initially told that his missing kidney precluded his serving in the military, he refused to give up and instead wrote letters, made many trips to the recruiting office, and appealed to his congressman and anyone else who would listen and finally found that, with a doctors okay and the begrudging help of David Wu, who seems only readily available when seeking re-election, he was able to enlist. The joy in his eyes on that day defeated any trepidation that I felt in having him join in such perilous times. He was finally able to live his dream.
There I was, proud as heck and immersed in the mix of pride and patriotism that exuded from the fine young men and women who have chosen to allow themselves to be put in deadly situations that to preserve the freedom that so many of their brothers and sisters throughout the years have given their lives or their health to maintain. They put themselves in harm’s way to keep that harm from our shores. It is a truly humbling feeling to stand with these heroes and honor their fallen comrades.
This year I find myself visiting Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on this important holiday, once again among those who volunteer to make me safe. I sadly do not have the opportunity to be with Nathaniel as he is in Atlanta until the middle of June, but I am here in support of his wife and children as they carry on while he is away. Being on base and seeing the many families that are also sacrificing and living the commitment of their military Spouses, mothers, and fathers reminds me of the need for our country to commit to supporting these wonderful people in every way that we can and in every way that they need. Too often our veterans and their families are discarded and forgotten once their tour of duty ends; left on to battle the effects of the war on their own, isolated and disconnected from the society to which they’ve given so freely of themselves. There was a time when soldiers were honored and respected for what they do. In earlier years, the whole country was willing to share in the hardship and sacrifice, but now we are more interested in assuring that we are not inconvenienced by a war effort that has been demonized by the press and the anti-war crowd until our soldiers become an afterthought at best and subjects of derision and scorn far too often. Everyone is anti-war. That doesn’t say that you shouldn’t support those who answer the call when someone crosses the line and commits an act of war against us. Our military is just doing their job and their duty. It is the politicians and, by extension, us, who are calling the shots.
Today is a day designated to honor those that have died in service to their country; in service to each and every one of us. We should all honor the brave people who choose to protect us even to the ultimate cost. Those who serve deserve our prayers, our respect, and our support every day of the year.
My Grandfather, David Charles Buedefeldt served with the Army during the final days of WW I and my father was a Marine during the Korean War. Two of the most honorable and courageous men that I have known in my life and the two greatest influences of the man that I am today. I miss them both very much and though each of them returned to civilian life after their time in the armed forces, the lessons learned and the bonds that were formed served them their entire lives. I honor them today and every day.
Though I did not serve in the military, in hindsight I believe that I missed a great opportunity to get a head start on the growth and maturity that has taken me a lifetime to achieve. I see in my son’s eyes the man that I might have been with the kind of push to achieve that the military can provide to someone who is drifting without a sense of purpose. It might have served me well, although I now would change nothing, as my life experiences have given me a wonderful wife and three of the finest sons that a man could have. Add to that a daughter-in-law that is like my own daughter and two (soon to be three) beautiful grandchildren. Our men and women in uniform have protected my ability to enjoy these blessings.
God bless the soldier, and God bless his family.