War is a difficult concept to explain to a child. Teaching them to respect the courage and commitment of American soldiers isn’t.
“So,” I start using my serious I’m-going-to-impart-knowledge voice. “I was thinking we could make thank you cards and give them to veterans who attend tonight’s concert.”
“Why ‘thank you’?” A. asks.
“Because we should thank the men and women who serve our country,” Chaz explains. “Some are injured very, very badly.” We don’t add that many die in defense of our freedom. We tightrope walk the line between what’s too much information to share.
“Is there a war right now?” A. asks.
“Yes,” Chaz says.
“There are American soldiers who are fighting today to make sure we are safe,” I add. This leads to more questions: Why war? Why do people fight each other? Are there always wars?
“I don’t have answers for a lot of your questions because I don’t know,” I answer honestly. “I don’t know why people fight. What I do know is it’s important to thank them for their service.” The boys are satisfied with my half-answer and finish their cards.
At Town Square, I. and F. become suddenly shy so A. and I go it alone, searching for a soldier. I see his Navy hat first. He’s an older man sitting with his wife. Each dressed in red, white and blue.
“Excuse me, are you a veteran?”
He answers yes, he is. A. hands the man the card who immediately hands it to his wife.
“We wanted to say thank you,” I say.
The wife opens the card and looks from A. to me to her husband. “Are you looking for a donation to something?”
“No,” I answer slightly confused. “We just wanted to say thanks.” I nudge A who mutters an incoherent “thank you.”
She hands the card back to her husband, “This is for you.”
He opens it, “You made this?” A. nods. “You’re a good boy.” A. dips his head embarrassed, a grin spreads across his face.
Next, we find a Vietnam Vet and our exchange goes smoother. A., loud and proud, thanks the man and hands him the card. The man looks a little taken back but touched.
One card left, I point towards a man with a prosthetic leg
“Excuse me, are you a veteran?” I ask as A. hands the man the card.
“No,” he says. Awkward. “But our son is,” his wife adds. Whew.
“Will you give this to him? And tell him thank you?”
“Absolutely!” Then go on to share that their son is back safe in the States. They wear their pride like a badge. They should. My throat tightens and I push back my tears. For these proud parents, their son made it home. We can’t ever forget those who don’t.