I do not have a military background, nor do I come from a family with a large number of veterans. My great-grandfather fought in the Pacific during WWII but regretfully I was not as close to him as I would have liked. When Memorial Day comes around each year, I can only imagine what it must be like to have a close relative either currently serving or having already given the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Although it is hard for me to truly appreciate the sacrifice of these men and women, I do know that they deserve our utmost respect and appreciation.
Not all who serve are asked to give their lives in the line of duty. One such man was my grandfather, Dallas Lee Parks. Dallas served in the Air Force just like his brother and for a time was stationed in Labrador, Canada. My grandpa never made a big deal about his service, in fact it was quite the opposite. He only mentioned it as an interesting anecdote in the story of his life which was filled with a seemingly never ending pool of stories from which he would often draw upon.
In fact, the only story that I recall him sharing from his time in the military was when he was assigned to guard Air Force One while the President was visiting Labrador. Although, he never could quite recall who the President was at that time. But that was my grandpa. He was humble and kind and served his family with love. He never expected to be recognized for a job well done and truly had a servant’s heart. Perhaps it was how he was raised on a small farm in tiny Wilsey, Kansas although I suppose many veterans carry similar traits. How else could you sign up for such a grueling and often thankless job?
What I probably remember most about my grandfather was that he never complained, he always trusted that God was in control. Even when he was stricken with a brain tumor in the Summer of 2010 that would eventually end his life. I turned 16 shortly after my grandpa was admitted to the hospital and would often drive my grandmother to go see him. Shortly after his surgery to remove the tumor I took my grandma to go see him and it happened that their pastor also stopped by to bring him words of encouragement. After their pastor read a passage of scripture, I will never forget what my grandfather said next, “We have been so blessed by God’. Even though he was laying in a hospital bed with the knowledge that his life was likely coming to a close, he was still able, with tears in his eyes, to praise the Lord of his life. No complaints, no worries, just thankfulness. Even though he wouldn’t enter into glory for several more months, these may as well had been his last words to me because they are the words that I remember the most.
When we celebrate the lives and service of our veterans, we often focus on their contributions in the line of duty or on the battlefield. Those contributions are worth honoring and remembering. But let’s also remember the contributions that these extraordinary men and women made at home in their communities, in their careers, their churches and in the lives of those who loved them.
My song of the week is a patriotic one (obviously) from the Man in Black himself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nhcIXgcnWk