I stopped, and took it from her hand, and just looked at it. I had to reach down deep, real deep, to find the strength not to simply burst into tears. This little tiny flower, made of cheap fabric and wire, yet it weighs like a stone in my hand, like a thousand pound rock pressing into my very soul. The weight of it threatens to push me to my knees……
I have always honored our veterans and the poppy has always been meaningful to me. It represented my dad and his service during WWII, it represented my own service during peace time, and it represented the countless ones who fought and died for my freedom. It represented all the patriotic flag waving parades attended across the years.............each year it has come to mean a little more to me as my own son deployed with the Army Infantry, first to Iraq, then to Afghanistan.
But today, I think I finally understand, I think I get it, this little red poppy means so very much more than all I had previously thought. I am unable to express in full detail what it means…but in the words that follow I will attempt as best I can.
The poppy stands for Kalin Johnson, Rudy Acosta, Michael Anaya, Kris Lorenzo, Vincent Ashlock, Frank World, David Todd, Patrick Carroll, Stephen Koch, Adam McSween, Seth Blevins, Andy Krippner, Kevin Balduf, Jamie Jarboe, Dustin Lee, Derek McConnell, Juan Navarro, Michael Demarsico…….and ………so very many more, all lives, all leaving behind lives forever scarred by their absence.
The poppy stands for Leah and her beautiful boys and the birthday they just celebrated, he would have been 36 years old this year. Deployed to heaven, gone too soon, killed in action in Afghanistan.
It stands for Cheryl, Chipster,Florence,Walline and Mary…………godly loving people, who show love and mercy to all they see, who pray so for my son, theirs gone too soon, theirs deployed to heaven.
It stands for Lisa, we agreed together on so many prayer posts, lifted up our sons and all those with them....mine came home, hers deployed to heaven.
It stands for the little blond boy, sitting in a heart shaped wave on a beach, who will never feel the arms of his father about him as he grows.
It stands for a young man named Michael as he lay burned and wounded in that hospital bed in Germany, his beautiful young wife beside him bending low to hear his whisper…”you have to let me go”…..and she did, with tears and sorrow.
It stand for a leader named John, who promised families he would bring their men home, and who now sits in prison till the end of his days for doing so.
It stands for Siobhan who laid everything down and rushed to the side of her wounded son, she and he fought like lions, through the constant threat of death, each time pushed back, each time defeated, and then one night he simply went to sleep and never woke up…deployed to heaven, we know not why.
It stands for Jamie Jarboe, as we watched from afar, the desperate fight to live, he fought long, he fought hard, but in the end, he went home, leaving behind a young wife who tries her best to honor his wishes and his memory by assisting veterans and their families.
It stands for Chaz, as he picks himself up off the ground at an airport, and his beautiful wife who feels the eyes of condemnation upon her by some stranger who knows nothing at all of the story she is witnessing.
It stands for young Mark, who graced our home with his presence, as he slyly twists his foot in a full circle and shows us his prosthetic leg.
It stands for Harry. It stands for Anthony. It stands for all our wounded and all those who love them.
The poppy stands for Trevor, Jon, Joe, Allen, Artie …and all of of those who fell to suicide. Behind them stand more wives, husbands, mothers, fathers and children all asking why.
It stands for Tammy, who buried her son Jon too soon, one who lost his fight against PTSD. She often sings various lyrics from numerous old songs, and she reaches out to veterans and survivors of suicide to lend a helping hand.
The poppy stands for a host of young men and women still out there fighting, still paying the price, still bleeding blood wounds and soul wounds the likes of which you cannot comprehend. For Francis, for Stuart and a host of others.
The poppy stands for all those who wait, for all those who struggle, for all those lives affected by all these wars, from the one that first began this country to the one we fight right now, to the ones we will most likely fight again in the future. The fallen, the wounded, the maimed…..and every single soul that loves them.
The poppy stands for
those who have come home, and yet remain there, who battle against PTSD, the
ones enduring the nightmares, the anxiety, the anger, the depression, the
hopelessness. For Andrew who once sat in a closet, gun to his head and who now
writes books and poetry and strengthens his brothers and sisters. For Boone who
uses the demon of PTSD against itself and directs his rage towards helping his
brothers and sisters come together and stand together and fight PTSD. All the
way Boone! It stands for Joe Dyer whose photo carrying an Iraqi boy to safety touched the heart of America but who died battling the demons of PTSD.
It stands for Bill, still battling the memories of Vietnam.
Behind each warrior who battles PTSD stand more mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, wives, husbands and children, watching their loved ones struggle against darkness, doing all that they can to help, fearing the dark, raging at the dark, and lighting candles against it.
And now the poppy begins to become very personal to me……the poppy stands for Allen, and for Mandy, and Luke and Reddik, for Steve and Judy, for all the blood, the tears the sacrifice, the loss and the sorrow.
It stands for the flag passed to two little boys, and the looks on their faces as they accepted it. It stands for the young woman who is burying the love of her life.
The poppy stands for my son Joshua, who never served a day and yet has served every day for many years. He bore the burden of an older brother fighting, he bore the fear of loss, he bore the worry and the stress and now he bears his brothers wounds, now home, the physical war behind him, but the mental one rages on.
The poppy stands for my family, for the nights on our knees, on our faces, for the fear, for the worry, for the pride, for the sacrifice, for the nights without sleep, for all the cries sent up to heaven, for all the pleas for prayers, for the days spend hovering by the phone, for the sorrow and pain felt at each loss, each wound. For the loss, for Mel who could not endure it all……
The poppy stands for Adam, my oldest son, for his service and sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan, for his actions, for the good and the bad, for his fighting with all of his heart and soul, for his wounds received, the physical and the mental, for the innocence lost, for his guts and his bravery and his willingness to do whatever it takes to bring his guys home, for the price he has paid for that, for the lives he saved and the lives he took. For the fight he is engaged in now, a fight for life and soul. For the great love we his family have for him, for the pride we have in him. He is a man. He has stared into the face of fear and hate, death and evil. He bears the scars of those encounters, and fights still to overcome wounds received to his soul.
This then is why, when that woman passed me that poppy this morning, it near took me to my knees, right there at Walmart, it stole the breathe from my lungs, brought the tears to my eyes, and I took it from her, and I nodded, for I could not speak, and I looked at it, and I pinned it to my chest.
So I ask you, regardless of what the poppy might mean to you………pin it to your chest, it is heavy this tiny flower, this lite as air piece of fabric and wire, it weighs the soul, weighs down deep……..weighed down with the terrible cost of war, the blood, the wounds, the death, the destruction, the hate, the pain, the loss, the fear….it is heavy but nonetheless, carry it and remember.
There is one more thing……..the poppy in all its heaviness, all that it represents of pain and loss and sorrow and sacrifice, also reminds me of my Lord. He too understood death and blood and pain and sorrow. He was whipped near to death, a crown of thorns pressed into his brow, he carried a heavy wooden instrument of torture to a high hill, whereby he was nailed to it, and lifted up, naked and laid bare to the world, to be mocked and scorned, his side pierced with a spear…..the sinless Lamb of God willingly took all this upon him, all the sin and death and horror and ugliness of this world, that we might be set free from the price of all our sins.
The blood that ran down was red like a poppy, and it has the power to wash away all sin. And upon remembering this, the back became stronger, the weight of the tiny flower eased, and once again it was a flower of remembrance for all that has been sacrificed.
I am so very honored to wear it.
If you are willing, and if there is someone for you, that gives that poppy weight, please leave their name in the comments so we can honor their memory. God bless you all, and God keep our veterans.