By WENDY HODGE
My dad’s bedroom is quiet most of the time. The hum of the hospital bed is the only constant sound, and it’s barely audible. Talking has become harder for him. Words are barely recognizable and are always cut short by harsh coughing fits. Sitting there, watching him breathe, is too much and not enough.
On the dresser across the room sits a cluster of old framed photos — a black and white history of a life well lived. Laughing babies, happy couples, old folks long gone from this earth … and in the middle is a picture of my dad in his dress blues. He was a 17-year old Marine about to be dropped into the middle of World War II as far away from home as a person can possibly be and still be on Earth.
I’ve seen that picture since I was a kid, and for the life of me I cannot imagine what he must have been thinking. To leave a “picture show” on a Saturday afternoon in the summer of 1943 and be compelled to risk your life in a war that had already wreaked so much havoc on so many. But compelled he was — enough so that he got his mom to put her signature on the enlistment forms and send him off to face battle. It’s a scene I struggle to reconcile with in my own role as a mom.
That was 78 years ago … more than the average lifespan of an American male. And the world is a different place. I’m not sure my dad would recognize his country anymore if he were able to watch the news. What would his reaction be to the state of the union? Or to the state of the world, for that matter?
I fear that when my dad is gone the world will have lost the type of man who made America the greatest country in the world. His passing will be the end of those who have a calling of the spirit, a drive of the mind, a duty of the heart to protect the freedom that we in America are born taking for granted. I am afraid that we will never be what we once were.
The news is streaming on my phone. I rarely watch the news, and I have no idea why I decided to focus on it now. But I’m glad I did. A Marine is wearing his dress blues, and he’s pleading with the camera. “Please, Mr. President, send us back. Let us get the ones we left behind. It is what we MUST do.”
I glance up at the picture of my dad and back down again at my phone, and they look identical. Both young, fiercely proud of their country and compelled by a calling of the spirit to go.
We do not have a shortage of men like my dad. They are there. They’ve always been there and always will be. What we don’t have is a leader, and these men are begging for one. We need a commander-in-chief who will lead them, not send them. We need a President who will unite us, not divide us. And we need to join together to follow.
No matter your political views or opinions about America or the world around us, we are standing in the rubble of bad decisions left behind by weak decision makers and self-centered factions who stir up thunderstorms and then complain because it’s raining. We’ve become the land of the bitter and the home of neighbors who hate neighbors.
And the rest of the world is watching. I have friends in Australia and South Africa who message me occasionally asking if we’re okay. They’re actually worried about our safety because the America they see on the news is a chaotic mess with a target on its back. They fear for their American friend. What would my dad say to that, I wonder?
If you pray at all, pray today for someone who has a soldier’s heart to take the reigns and lead us back to the country my dad risked his life for on the island of Saipan in 1943. Pray for all the men and women who put on their uniform every single day and follow that drive of the spirit. Pray that they are safe, but also pray that they are led and not just sent.
And pray for my dad. His days are few, and he fought for us all. Pray that he dies knowing it was not in vain.