There’s never a bad time to honor sacrifice


Jason Smith

Columnist


I’ve developed a bit of an obsession in recent days.

It’s something I’ve always enjoyed to some degree. But lately, I can’t seem to get away from it.

I love watching military homecoming videos. There’s just something about seeing a family being surprised as their uniformed loved one walks into the room unexpectedly, to be greeted with hugs and shrieks of excitement.

Sometimes these videos come in the form of a television news report, as smiling journalists take a break from the day’s biggest and juiciest headlines to put a smile on viewers’ faces. Other times, these videos involve nothing more than a person walking shakily with camera in hand. Either way, these videos capture the reactions of family members as they see their son, daughter, parent or other family member for the first time in months or even years.

I realize Memorial Day has already passed for this year, and Veterans Day isn’t until November. So why am I writing about this now?

It’s simple. Honoring military service is not something that should be limited to two days out of the year.

Those reunion videos always make me smile, for a few reasons. In addition to my being a complete sap for those sweet reunions, they take me back to the days when my brother was in the Navy and we didn’t get to see him for weeks or months at a time. I patterned so much of my life after him in my younger days, and I was so proud of him for serving our country. Still, I missed him terribly whenever he was gone, and I loved whenever he came home for a visit.

I think back to when he was due to come home in August of 1990, after serving on an aircraft carrier. It was a tense time in our country and in my family, because of everything that was going on at the time. Fortunately, my brother departed the ship 12 hours before Kuwait was invaded. I think we all breathed a collective sigh of relief when he came home a couple weeks later.

Another reason I love those reunion videos is seeing the reactions of kids, in particular, when they’re surprised by their father, mother, brother or sister. Those veterans could be getting home from a deployment a few days or hours early, or conspiring with family members to celebrate a birthday, graduation or some other special occasion. In any case, it’s a heartwarming scene to see kids – whether they’re 6 or 16 years old – run into the arms of their military hero.

One video shows a young woman in her wedding dress, crying tears of joy as she sees her Marine brother walking up to her. As the story goes, the two siblings are best friends, and she had been crying on her mom’s shoulder the night before, thinking he wouldn’t be there for her big day. Unbeknownst to her, he had been granted a one-day leave for the wedding. I’m just enough of a sap to love things like that.

But I think my favorite of those reunion videos is one that depicts the shock of two middle-school sisters, as they see their father, an Army sergeant, leading the Pledge of Allegiance by way of a school-wide video. Until that moment, they didn’t know he had returned home from a year-long deployment in Afghanistan. The tear-filled look of relief on the older sister’s face, as she embraces her beloved dad, gets me every time. I could watch it all day.

I’m sure my newfound obsession with these reunion videos won’t take up quite so much of my time as they have over the last few days. But hopefully, I’ll never lose my fascination with them. They help to remind me of the sacrifices made every day by not only our veterans, but their families as well.

I hope I never get to the point that such things only matter two days a year.

Jason has worked in newspapers since 2005, spending the majority of that time in Henry County. He lives in Covington with his wife and daughter.