A Big Fourth of July Thank You

The ice cream truck is a recovery vehicle. Don’t judge me.

Miles run today: 4.5

Temperature when I got back from my run: 89

Peach pies made and eaten yesterday: 1

My parents used to torture us by taking us to pick blueberries on the Fourth of July.

Place I wanted to be on the Fourth of July: the pool. With my friends. In water.

Place my parents wanted to be: in a field in the 95-degree sun. Picking fruit that I didn’t even like.

So guess where I’m taking my kids tomorrow? Yep. To pick blueberries. In the hot sun. Maybe they’ll love it and have warm and fuzzy memories about their cool mom. Or not.

I discovered long ago that I’m exactly as tough as I need to be and not a bit tougher than that. I’m reading the Bear Grylls biography right now, “Mud, Sweat and Tears,” and his account of being a recruit for the SAS Reserves (something like our Green Berets) has made me realize I would flunk out on the first day.

If the instructors had me wake up at 4 a.m. and weigh my 55-pound pack, then told me I had to run over mountains with said pack for 20 miles, then turn around and come back, I would laugh. I would look around for a candid camera and hope the ice cream truck would pull up nearby to rescue me. For people like Bear, it made him try harder. Bless his heart.

For my job, I have interviewed several servicemen and women as well as some military spouses. One little girl in our area is collecting letters to send to soldiers. Her goal is to collect and send over a million letters. For the Fourth of July, I wanted to share some thoughts in an open letter.

Dear United States Armed Forces Member:

Thank you.

When I was younger, the thought of signing up for any military assignment sounded both frightening and overwhelming. The mental and physical toughness you exhibited simply by signing up is admirable. To stick with it through difficult overseas deployments blows my mind.

As I have gotten older and read accounts of war and sacrifice throughout our nation’s history, I realize that people like you have ensured that people like me can keep on keeping on.

If we want to pick blueberries in the hot sun on the Fourth of July, we can. If we want to spend three months hiking the Appalachian Trail, we can. Or if we want to toil away at a computer in our comfy little homes while you are patroling in dangerous war zones, you make every single mundane thing possible.

Spouses and family members of servicemen and women: thank you for all of the sacrifices you make and lonely days and nights you spend away from your child/husband/wife/mother/father. I now understand more about how important that person is to me personally and to our nation.

When you have to cut the grass, pay the bills and figure out childcare while your spouse is deployed for several months at a time, please know that I appreciate you. When you have to Skype your child in a hot place overseas and wonder if they are okay as you watch the news each morning, please know that I appreciate you.

Today is Independence Day, not Memorial Day. But I know that we are able to celebrate with splashy fireworks and corn-on-the-cob today because of you.

When I hear the fireworks outside and see people celebrating in red-white-and-blue, I will be thinking of all the people who make this day possible each year.

Thank you.

Anne Woodman

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12 thoughts on “A Big Fourth of July Thank You

  1. crubin says:

    That was wonderful, Anne. I won’t even make the usual joke, because if found the letter so touching. To endure what our service men and women must endure, including being away from children and other loved ones, is unimaginable. I join you in thanking them.

  2. Bernie Brown says:

    Amen.

  3. jmmcdowell says:

    I love the letter, Anne. Today is as appropriate a day to remember our past and current military personnel as Memorial Day. It’s their sacrifices that help us celebrate this day every year.

  4. I know. I was writing today and thought, I’m writing a bunch of fluff and there are young people my son’s ages who are out there putting their lives on the line – and parents and loved ones at home thinking of them every 90 seconds – so I can do that. Hopefully someday I will be able to say or write something that helps someone or changes someone and make those sacrifices worth it.

  5. Andria says:

    Anne- I spent the day today with my dad who was a WWII vet and heard some stories I hadn’t heard of his time in the war. We just can’t imagine what our soldiers go through.

  6. L.S. Engler says:

    My cousin just recently returned home from her Army training; I’m hoping to make it back for a little bit in July, because I know she’s got some interesting stories. I almost joined the Air Force myself in high school; sometimes I wonder if I would have been able to handle it, but…I was also a ballerina for ten years. I’m pretty sure I can do intense. (But I’m still partly glad that I missed that boat and that others I knew went on to do a wonderful job down that path).

    Really great post, Anne. Makes me wish I could head back and see her sooner!

  7. Melissa says:

    Beautifully said. Happy 4th!

  8. David Gentry says:

    Sometimes we old folks of the baby boomer generation wonder if the American truth has passed to your generation. After your post, I am glad to say that it has. You have no idea of how glad.

    For most of my life I visualized veterans as old male geezers who got together occasionally at American Legion Halls and drank and told lies. Then I joined the Birmingham Aero Club due to my interest in aviation, and I heard stories directly from people of my generation who went to Vietnam and even from people of the greatest generation who fought in World War II. It became more personal. Then I watched “Saving Private Ryan” and “Band of Brothers.” Then I read “Flags of Our Fathers” and “We Were Soldiers Once and Young.” Then I began remembering the elliptical stories of my dad. They were always random comments. They were not “war stories.” He wrote a stream-of-consciousness paragraph about flying back from a 10-hour mission, glimpsing the white cliffs of Dover and knowing he was home; he spent three days [He was known to exaggerate. Was it two days? One day?] hiding in a hay stack from the Germans after being shot down, having only an apple core to eat, while the German soldiers urinated into the haystack, and when he vowed that if he survived he would never be hungry again; He was the command pilot of a B-17 four engine bomber that had no insulation in its almost paper-thin aluminum walls and that had cracks in the fuselage where parts were joined so that the -50 degrees cold did not seep into the airplane — it blew in like a gale; and there were so many other comments that I will write them down one of these days. I felt guilt over my soft life. Then I read a newspaper column written by a veteran who said that veterans know we non-veterans can never know what it is like and all we can do — and it is enough — is to live honorable lives. I thought of Tom Hanks telling Private Ryan to “Earn it.” The veteran’s column helped.

    One responsibility we non-veterans surely have is to pass the knowledge and truth of what America is to our kids — in addition to living honorable lives — well, OK, maybe sloppy lives at times — no one is perfect — but at least trying to live honorable lives.

    One way to teach our kids and grandkids about our heritage is to encourage them to show appreciation for obvious things, such as Christmas gifts, rides to soccer games, etc. Showing appreciation for ordinary gifts will lead to appreciation for larger and less obvious gifts. Another way is to encourage our kids and grandkids to watch “Saving Private Ryan” and/or “Band of Brothers.” This experience should be as common as reading “The Diary of Anne Frank” in school. When to encourage kids to watch these movies is an interesting question. I think it is when kids begin to think they are really “hot,” or “tough,” probably sometime in high school.

    Thanks for your post.

  9. robincoyle says:

    Lovely. This was especially poignant for me with my daughter leaving for the Army last Sunday. You brought a tear to my eye. Who am I kidding? TEARS to my eye.

  10. 4amWriter says:

    Lovely letter. I often feel the same emotions for Independence day as I do for Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. Sometimes I think we don’t make these days special enough, we often forget what they’re really about amid the bbq and the fireworks. Thank you for bringing the reality to the forefront.

  11. Well said Anne. Thank you.

  12. Really great open letter to our armed forces and their families. ( I Got quite a chuckle out of your next gen blueberry picking tradition too!!
    Good post all around!!

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