Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Give me tomorrow

Photo courtesy of
Bing images
December 24, 2013 Update:

I wrote this article in December 2010 because I was a bit disappointed with the lack of media attention given to the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor bombing here in the United States.  Christmas Day 2013 is approaching for us now, and I decided to re-post this same article because I many friends request it each year, and it is vitally important to me that we remember our men and women in the military who are far from home during so many holidays. What I will add is that I have found another website called The Veterans Site that many of you might want to visit. This site sells products and uses the proceeds to feed homeless and hungry veterans. Each product listed on their site indicates how many meals it will purchase. You can also sign up to receive a daily email reminder to visit their site and click their blue button at the top of the page; each time this button is clicked, sponsors of The Veterans Site donate money for meals for homeless and hungry veterans. 100% of sponsor money goes to charity, so I do this daily click. It takes perhaps 15 seconds to accomplish. 

I dedicate the article below to my family members who have served in the United States Armed Forces:  Ted Reagan, Wendell Reagan, Clayton Reagan, Charles Reagan, Ronald Reagan (these first 5 names are my uncles, all of which are my heroes and father figures), William "Bill" Albert Prince III (my uncle), Kenneth Reagan, Tim Reagan, Steve Richardson, Drew Reagan, Christopher Taylor, Quincy Trentham (my cousins), Bill Sievers (my dad), Dick Nelson, David Reagan, Reece Reagan Jr., Curt Pickens, John Day (my cousins), Ben Barbie (honorary uncle), Sam Bright (great uncle), Edward Nelson, Fred Nelson Jr., Don Nelson, James Bennett (my cousins) and Papa Michael Long (my honorary dad).

Original article date, December 8, 2010

Photo courtesy of
Bing images
I am paraphrasing this story from memory, from an article I read many years ago in Parade magazine. It was written by a war correspondent who started his career during the Korean conflict. He was cocky; sure he would go into the war zone and interview soldiers, then write brilliant articles and quickly make his mark in the literary world. He was dropped off at the front lines in winter and proceeded to make a nuisance of himself, badgering weary soldiers with what he admitted later in life were absurd questions. They were all exhausted, wet, poorly clothed for the winter weather, and not at all welcoming to his chatter and blustery manner.

One quiet soldier caught his attention. The reporter remembered that he had haunted eyes and kept himself aloof from the rest of his troop. When he asked some of the other men why that was, the answer was this young man of 23 had been there the longest and had lost over 35 close friends on his tour. A soldier of 23 years was considered an "old man" in that particular arena. Sure that this guy was the one to give him the story content he had been anticipating, the reporter walked over, sat down and began trying to interview him. No answers were forthcoming. The young soldier wasn't rude; he just sat there, tending to his weapon and ignored every inquiry the reporter threw at him. Finally, in frustration, the reporter threw out a banal suggestion.

"Tell me what you want for Christmas this year!"
Silence reigned for so long that the reporter had decided to give up and move on to another prospect when the young man with the haunted eyes finally looked up and pinned him with a weary stare.

"Give me tomorrow," he said simply, then stood up, weapon in hand and walked away.
The reporter said that he never forgot that simple lesson, and that simple statement. He said it taught him that vanity and hubris had no place on any battlefield and he learned that day that he had a long way to go before he could ever dream to reach a level of class that that young man with the haunted eyes projected with one simple statement. I do not recall the Parade article mentioning if this young soldier made it home from Korea. I like to believe that he did, that he made it home and lived a long, happy life, was able to marry and have children and that he enjoyed many, many tomorrows.

I apologize for not having the reporter's name to share; I believe he went on to win quite a strong level of acclaim throughout his career. I just always think of this story at Christmastime, and again at various significant military dates, when so many of our Armed Forces are far from home, and all of them are wanting one simple thing. Tomorrow.

Over the years, there have been a few similar instances where my heart and my imagination were captured. The bombing of the U.S. and French barracks in Beirut in 1983 is one such moment. Only days prior to the bombing, one of the national news stations had sent reporters in to interview some of the soldiers there. One beautiful young man was interviewed as he was in the weight room, working out. He was intelligent, well mannered, thoughtful in his responses and wanted one thing - for everyone in his troop to make it home safely. Two or three days later, the bombing occurred and I have wondered quite often over the years if that beautiful young man survived the bombing. 299 American and French troops perished that day. I'll never know the answer to that question, but I've always prayed he had many, many tomorrows to enjoy as well.

No one in this world, if they're in their right mind, wants or believes in war. I choose to be patriotic on many levels, as I wholeheartedly love my home country and I am proud of us as a Nation. I do not ever think that war is the best solution to any chaotic situation. That being said, when our troops are sent out to dangerous areas, I am going to be one of those Americans who strongly support their efforts. It is because of those troops, those men and women of the United States, and what they do every single day, that we remain free and protected, safe for the most part, to enjoy our own tomorrows.

During the Christmas 2010 season, I have a friend in Iraq who will be coming home soon. I met him through the Cup of Joe for a Joe coffee program on the http://www.greenbeanscoffee.com/ website. He is on the countdown stage right now, anticipating being home to spend the holidays with his loved ones. With just a bit more patience and luck, he will be home safely, embracing many tomorrows. *2011 Update: this friend did make it home safely; he is now preparing for his next active duty tour.*  But we all know that there are just as many who had their tomorrows cut short. We see it every single day on the evening news. The numbers increase daily, and families throughout the United States (and other countries who have a military presence in war zones) get those dreaded official visits, telling them the fateful news.

Tomorrow is not promised to any of us, this much is another simple truth. For soldiers, it is a daily tightrope and a tenuous journey they walk, rarely knowing if they'll have that next tomorrow. Regardless of your feelings about our presence in any wartorn country, I would hope that everyone can find it in their hearts to put those opinions aside and be supportive of our troops who are currently deployed. Send them loving prayer, send Care Packages if you are able to, do something like the coffee gift program, or The Veterans Site that I mentioned above. All soldiers deserve to know that their daily efforts are appreciated. I like to believe that the more support we all offer, the more loving thought and prayer we focus on our troops, perhaps the stronger the chances are for many of them that they will, indeed, see more tomorrows. For soldiers who make it home safely, the war doesn't always end there.  They require medical and psychological help that is difficult to obtain.  Many others reengage successfully with civilian life, and they are the lucky ones.  Regardless of their journey, they all deserve appreciation, recognition and support.

Photo courtesy of
Bing images
Godspeed and God Bless all the souls who protect and serve the United States Armed Forces. I wish for each and every one of them the United States soldier's wish from decades ago in Korea:

Give them tomorrow. Many, many tomorrows.