Soldiers, Shots, and Back to School… or, how I suck at alliteration.

A lot happened today, actually. It’s seemed lately that my days have been a blur, mostly just tending to Zach’s needs and taking care of myself as best as I can. I’ve also helped around the house as much as I can, and worked on little projects here and there. But honestly, life as a new mom tends to blur a lot, no matter how productive you actually are.

Today was not blurry for several reasons, though.

First, this morning we went to see a local hero come home. The hard part was, it wasn’t on happy terms. Recently, a helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan. Many of the men in this helicopter were actually part of the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden. When the helicopter was shot down, 30 people died. Four were from my area.

Today, Spencer Duncan’s body returned home. And, in a show of patriotism, as many people as possible came to welcome him home. My family was in Olathe to welcome him, but people lined the streets for most of the drive from the airport in Gardner to the funeral home in Olathe. Businesses in Gardner closed in order for their employees to be there when the procession went by. Many businesses along the stretch of road the procession passed in Olathe did the same. Literally thousands of people were on the streets today, holding flags, signs, and showing support and love for Spencer and his family.

Spencer was a hometown hero. He attended Olathe South, and lived not 15 minutes from me. His brother returned home for his funeral, with only 3 weeks left in his journey to becoming a United States Marine.

I’ll give you some background on myself at this point. I was married to a Marine. We’re now divorced, because, well, things happen and people go in different directions in life. He wasn’t good for me, and I wasn’t good for him. But my love for the Corps is still there, and my love for the troops is still alive and well. And today, I was moved to tears.

The fire department raised their ladders and flew a 20 foot by 30 foot flag. If you haven’t seen one that big, let me assure you, it’s massive.

When the procession went by, you could tell Spencer’s family was in tears.

Over 100 motorcycles from the Patriot Guard were there as well, as part of the procession.

Our exchange students went with us to this event, to Stand for Spencer. Afterwards, we were talking to them, and they mentioned how strange it was. Why, they asked, would we go and support someone who has died? After all, aren’t they just a soldier? What is the big deal?

There are a few things you should know about this. First, no country in the world has the same patriotism that America has. Some countries even see our love for our country and flag as being very arrogant. Sure, they love their countries. But they do not display the same sense of pride that we do. When I went to Germany, very few businesses actually had the German flag displayed. The only ones that did were government buildings. Most exchange students I know, when asked to sing their national anthem, cannot. Tell me… how many Americans do you know that don’t know the words to our national anthem? I’d be hard-pressed to find even one.

America has a love for their country that seems unmatched. In 2004, when 9/11 was still fresh in our minds, I traveled to New York City. I was on a trip with 150 exchange students… and 3 Americans (including myself). We visited the site of the World Trade Center. I crumbled into a ball on the ground in tears. The other two Americans had a similar gut-punch reaction. We buckled.

And the 150 other students just stared at us. So what? It was a building.

It’s just a different mind-set. Not to say everyone from every culture is like that. I’m just saying, in my experience, that’s how it is. So this, thousands of people lining the streets over a 15-20 mile stretch of roadways? Definitely an odd experience for them.

You also have to know, in Germany, where one of the students is from this year, they have two options in the year after high school if they are male. The first option is to perform a year in the military, and the second option is to perform a year of civil service. One person I know chose the civil service, and spent a year wiping 80-year-old butts. Trust me, most of them choose the military option if they are physically able. Being in the military isn’t really an option there. Everyone does it.
Here, it’s a choice. And for me, that makes the pain even stronger when one of them returns home in a hearse instead of to hugs from family and friends. Spencer Duncan and the other 29 people on that helicopter CHOSE to give their lives for our country, CHOSE to risk that when they went over there, CHOSE to defend their country’s honor, CHOSE to put on that uniform, CHOSE to do what so many of us can’t or won’t do, because they love our country, and more importantly, they love the people in it. They sacrificed. They were away from the ones they loved. They put a strain on relationships. They gave up time from their normal lives. They worked their butts off in training and in work. They made sacrifice after sacrifice, until they gave the ultimate sacrifice of their lives. To me, there’s nothing more honorable than that.

That’s why, when I find out about events like tomorrow, I want to scream. Tomorrow, the Westboro Baptist Church, hateful as they are, have plans to picket CPO Matt Mason’s funeral. Matt Mason was a member of the Navy Seals and a truly beloved man. He gave his life in the same helicopter attack that SPC Spencer Duncan died in. The Westboro Baptist Church, for those who are unfamiliar, love to protest military funerals, with signs saying “God Hates America,” “Thank God for IEDs,” and more. They spread a message of hatred, and that’s not what this country should be about. Because of this, my family plans to attend a counter-protest of Westboro Baptist Church tomorrow. There is also a press release on Westboro Baptist Church’s home page saying they plan on picketing Spencer’s funeral Thursday. I plan to be at a counter-protest for that, as well. Preaching hate is no way to end a war, but it sure is a good way to start one.

On a less patriotic note, Zach had a doctor’s appointment today. He is one month and three days old, so this was a good chance to measure his growth. He was 7 pounds, 3 ounces at birth, and at a week and a half old, he was 7 pounds, 7 ounces. Today, he clocked in at 9 pounds 2 ounces! Quite the gain, and he’s right on track with where he should be. He is also 21 inches long, which means a 2 inch growth since he was born. The doctor says that his height and weight are exactly PERFECT when it comes to where he should be.

The downside of today’s doctor’s visit is that my baby had to get shots. He cried. I cried. Basically everyone cried except the mean nurse who gave him the shot. I hate seeing my little boy upset, let alone in pain. I crumbled. All I could do was hold him tight afterwards and try to make it better. Poor little guy!

And, finally, tomorrow it’s time for most people to be returning to school in this area. My brother goes back, and the Exchange Students experience their first day here as well. As for me, it’s not time to return to school yet, but I do have several meetings tomorrow all about my return to school in the fall. It’s about time to get back into the swing of things for me, and get back to a very structured schedule. I think it will be refreshing.

Happy Back to School, everyone!

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3 comments

  1. Those baby shots are so hard! Just know that you are doing the right thing to keep him healthy and something like whooping cough would be so much worse!

    I think it’s great you were out to support that young man and his family (and the military). I can’t imagine having my son go to war somewhere and I believe it’s important to let the family know that it is important to us, even if we don’t know the particular soldier involved. I am just horrified by the “protests” staged by that “church”. They should be ashamed of themselves.

  2. Thank you for this! And thank you for attending Matt’s funeral. He was a good friend of ours. Were overseas and weren’t able to get back in time but when we heard about the Baptist protest plans, we put out the calls. It was truly amazing to see friends, and friends of friends step up and not only get the word out to counter-protest, but say they would show up to support the fallen hero. And to show his young boys and pregnant wife that there are thousands of us patriots that appreciate their Daddy.

  3. As a European (French), I have to say that it’s true that we don’t have the same patriotism, or maybe that we don’t show it the same way. Here you’ll barely see french flags, even on Bastille Day. Most people can sing a couple words from the anthem, though, but not all of it. I remember I was really surprised by that when I went to the USA (way back in 1996 and 1999), it’s completely different from here. I love that we can confront different points of view and opinions, though, and that you can share your love of the military to your exchange students, too, this will open their minds to new perspectives!

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