I am a patriot.
Unashamed, unabashed, and proud.
I think there were two defining moments in my life that played a huge role in my sense of patriotism.
When I was 13, my parents took me to Washington D.C. for our country’s bicentennial. I was transfixed and transformed that week by the changing of the guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery. All of a sudden all the monuments, museums, and attractions of our nation’s capitol became alive with meaning to me.
The other event happened when I was a young man just out of college and settling into the business world.
I still remember where I was when I received a phone call from the secretary at the office that my grandfather had died.
I had spent many a summer and many a weekend at my grandparents as they only lived about 45 miles away from the town I grew up in. Yet, I hardly felt like I hardly knew the man at all.
We seemed to have come from different worlds, but really it was just different generations.
He was a quiet man who didn’t speak much to me or seem to be be able to relate to me. Farmer, cattleman, businessman- he was always on the go, always busy, always tired.
I did notice however, from an early age, that everyone he encountered had enormous respect for “Mr. Walt.” He seemed to know everyone and be admired by everyone.
At his funeral I sat with the rest of the family graveside for the burial ceremony. I was struck by the image of the American flag draped over his coffin. Then, in a moment I will never forget, the person presiding reached over to my grandmother, presented her with the flag, and said, “Mrs. Martin, this is on behalf of a grateful nation, for Mr. Martin’s service in World War II.”
I was 23 years old and I had no idea that my own grandfather had served in the military, much less fought in World War II.
He never talked about it with me. He never shared stories or memories. He never recalled his feats or even mentioned it to me.
The war ended, his time was up- he simply came home and went on with his life.
He raised a family, developed farmland, raised livestock and built his business endeavors.
My grandfather was part of what history has deemed “the greatest generation.”
They fought unspeakable battles, they suffered the horrors of war, they witnessed brutality, they stood up to evil and ultimately defeated it in winning our peace and our liberty.
And then they came home and quietly went about restoring a nation.
It wasn’t about medals, honors, recognition or glory.
They did it out of a belief in calling, a sense of duty, and a responsibility. It was their privilege, their moment, and their chosen time.
They doubted anyone could really appreciate or understand what they had endured.
I still have that flag displayed in my office to this day.
I will think about that on this Memorial Day. I will remember them for their sacrifice, their love, and their valor.
And then I will think about us my fellow special needs families.
We too simply go about our days in sacrifice, devotion to others, and a sense of calling. We don’t parent our children with special needs out of obligation. We do so out of love, calling, devotion, and divine purpose.
Outside of our circles with our fellow servant parents we don’t talk about it much. We don’t share stories outside our “safe” friends, because we doubt anyone would understand the world we endure.
But we were chosen and called for such time as this and for this purpose. This is our time. This is where we will be remembered.
Let us report for duty, stand our posts, and give our all.
When it comes to parenting children with special needs, may it be said of us, “This was truly the greatest generation.”