Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, May 19, 2006

"Without Them, There Will Be No Other Rights to Guard"

by Kerry Blair

Tomorrow is National Armed Forces Day. It’s that little square on your calendar between Bank Holiday (UK) and Victoria Day (Canada) that you probably haven’t circled. Nobody pays much attention to it unless their loved one wears the uniform of one of those Armed Forces. I’ve circled it. Twice. My oldest son is a new Army medic and my youngest is an Iraq-seasoned Marine. Indulge me then while I tell you why you should care about tomorrow, and care deeply.

In May of 1950, President Harry S. Truman issued a presidential proclamation establishing the holiday and calling for “the celebration of that day in such manner as to honor the Armed Forces of the United States.” It was primarily designed to increase awareness not so much of what the military does, but of who they are—sons, daughters, husbands, wives, parents, siblings—the real people in the helmets and flak vests, submarines, tanks and cockpits.

Half a century later, the holiday is still on our calendars. Few people notice anymore—including those in the military. The New York Times noted in May of 1952: This is the day on which we pay special tribute to all the individuals who are in the service of their country all over the world. It won’t be a matter of parades and receptions for a good many of them. They will all be in the line of duty, and some of them may give their lives in that duty.

Unfortunately, that’s as true today as it was fifty-four years ago. I belong to two online groups of military mothers who try to support our children and each other as best we can. This month—which is barely half over—I have written nine condolence letters to mothers whose sons were killed in Iraq. Nine. The youngest Marine to die between Mother’s Day and Armed Services Day was 19. The oldest was 23. I wish I could say that May has been a rare month, but what is rare is for three or four consecutive days to pass in which I don’t write at least one letter to someone whose child has given his life for our country. Hearts must be very resilient things or mine would have broken into a million pieces by now.

So isn’t it indeed “fitting and proper” as President Dwight D. Eisenhower said “to devote one day each year to paying special tribute to those whose constancy and courage constitute one of the bulwarks guarding the freedom of this nation and the peace of the free world”? As President John F. Kennedy added so succinctly: “Word to the Nation: Guard zealously your right to serve in the Armed Forces, for without them, there will be no other rights to guard.”

I am proud of my sons for their honor, courage and commitment. They know the price they might pay. They enlisted in time of war because they genuinely want to serve their country, preserve our freedom and safety, and become the best men they can be. (Still, I blame my father who was career Navy. The man bled red, white and blue.) Today I pay tribute to my father, my sons, and the thousands of men and women who are like them. I will remember them tomorrow—and always.

If you would like to send a note of encouragement to our troops worldwide, go to You can also (thanks to Marnie Pehrson, web wizard extraordinaire) see a recent picture of my boys on my website. Tomorrow, regardless of your politics, will you fly your flag and say a prayer for our country and for those who devote their often very young lives to defending it? Please?

"These are the times that try men's souls," Thomas Paine said more than two centuries ago. "The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."


Personal note to Scott and Matt: I know you hate it when I do this kind of thing, but it’s a free country—thanks to men and women like you. I can post whatever I want!


At 5/19/2006 12:00 PM, Anonymous Jennie said...

Kerry, for the past three years you or I have continuously had a son in combat and when they haven't been in Iraq one or the other has been in Korea. It's been a tough time for us moms of servicemen, but like you, I'm so proud of these young men. Recently we spent a week at Walter Reed with our serviceman and were so proud of the men and women we met there. Those are the most couragous young people I've ever known. They do more without a limb than most of us ever do with. Their attitude is great and their love for this country is limitless. We are fortunate to have such patriotic American youth who serve their country with so much distinction and honor.
Your tribute to the men and women in the military is very appreciated by me--a job well done.

At 5/19/2006 1:11 PM, Blogger Cheri said...

Kerry, well said. It's sad that too often, people in our country forget the sacrifices that have been made on their behalf. It's easy to get caught up in our own little worlds and forget the high cost of the freedoms we take for granted.
My grandfather fought in WW1, an uncle survived Vietnam, my father-in-law served in the Air Force. From their example I have learned the importance of honoring our flag and country.
As the mother of all sons, I have fretted when each one has reached the age when they can sign up for the draft. My youngest is still leaning toward the military after his mission. Time will tell.
I can't imagine how difficult it must be for mothers and mothers-in-law of military sons, especially during a time of war.
Know that many hearts are with you all. None of you will ever get the recognition you deserve, but I, for one, will always honor and respect the high price you are paying.

At 5/19/2006 1:59 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Kerry, this was so beautiful and so powerful. Thank you for such an important reminder of the price of freedom. You've stirred many hearts to gratitude and contemplation.

At 5/19/2006 4:37 PM, Blogger annegb said...

Well said, Kerry, Brava.

At 5/19/2006 8:28 PM, Anonymous Scott Blair said...

Hello world. This is Scott Blair writing from the grand nation of Korea. It’s already National Armed Forces Day here. I’m enjoying it because I had yesterday, and have today (it’s a weekend) off. Off in that my company always want to know where I am In case they need me.
I had to post this note just to say that Mom was right, I don’t particuly like pictures of me in the livingroom let alone her website. I guess I’ll live tough, not like I have a choice.

At 5/19/2006 9:31 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

He really does hate it. But he's just so cute, I can't resist. And I didn't even mention that he's single. Anybody know any nice LDS Korea?

At 5/19/2006 9:36 PM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

Kerry, I have two single sisters. Unfortunately, neither one of them lives in Korea. ;)

At 5/20/2006 1:36 AM, Blogger JWH said...

Thank You Kerry, too many don't remember our soldiers - or other military men and women until the bad guy is knocking on our own front door. As a wife who is currently helping my soldier pack for his 2nd tour to Iraq, I proudly wave my flag everyday. Both in my front yard and in my heart. It is the hugs and words of love and comfort that help the days apart slip by. I posted my husband's picture on my blog that I wrote a few days ago. I think he'd get along great with your boys, he'd rather I didn't put his picture online - only because he's quite shy. But his family likes the updates. Thanks again for reminding the world of the sacrifies our loved ones make.

At 5/20/2006 11:06 AM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

JWH, it's true that our soldiers don't always get the recognition they deserve, but there's a group that gets even less while sacrificing as much -- or more. I'm refering, of course, to the countless wives (and husbands) who pack, pray, and somehow manage to hold themselves and their families together. That takes as much courage, honor, and commitment as donning a helmet. YOU are a true American hero! There isn't a national day in your honor, but there should be!

I would dearly love to see the picture of your husband and read your blog. Would you please send me the address - privately if you prefer? My e-mail is just to the right of the blogs. Thank you for your comment. I hope you know that the thoughts and prayers of America go with you and yours.

At 5/20/2006 9:38 PM, Blogger JWH said...

I'm new to blogging, there are only 3 posts so far, and I'm still setting it up, but I'd love to have you head over there.


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