THE LAST BREATH

They’ll keep the flag flying with a fresh and freeing breeze… not by death; but, by freedom from the highest mountains to the seas!

It’s been said our great flag flies not by the wind which rustles the leaves;

But, with the very last breath every fallen soldier breathes.

When on nights, so cold the air freezes in your chest, the flag flies high and brings a tightness to your breast,

Then come the memories of those past wars, the wounds, the faces and the scars.

Each one is reflected in the colored stripes and bold stars.

Every generation past and yet to come, will certainly be asked

To share their best for freedom and faithfully complete the task.

They’ll keep the flag flying with a fresh and freeing breeze… not by death; but, by freedom from the highest mountains to the seas!

Perspective

Once we have a name for something, we sort of consider it solved. Such is the case with PTSD…

Min Minute Military logo

This evening my son and I, with his Mom and another young war veteran, were sharing stories. Daniel related how the unit to which he had been assigned the 1-325th Red Falcons of the 82nd Airborne had recently been deployed to the Middle East. A young lieutenant that Daniel had gotten to know a little before he retired from the unit was killed by an IED. He shared how another soldier with whom he had gone through boot camp had been assigned to the Old Guard, the troops whose mission is to guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and provide honor guards at the Arlington National Cemetery. That young soldier had just committed suicide because of the bullying and hazing he had endured in the unit.

So often, once we have a name for something, we sort of consider it solved. Such is the case with PTSD, Post-Truamatic Stress Disorder. There, you see, we named it and now we know it so we don’t need to do any more with it. We can kind of tuck it away in the corner of our sub-conscious until we hear of the next young soldier’s death due to hazing and bulllying and we nod our heads knowingly. If so and so had just gotten some help for his PTSD maybe his suicide would not have happened, we say. That makes for an easy perspective when it isn’t your son, your husband, your father. Now my son owns two wrist bands, silver and shiny. Etched in them are the names of his battle buddy and of his Lieutenant.  It made me recall the POW/MIA bracelets of the late 60’s and early 70’s. I wonder whatever happened to mine? I began to wonder whatever became of my MIA… perspective.

The young veteran with whom we were talking shared how he hoped that when the tatoo he was in the process of getting down his arm is finished there will be a worn American flag there. Underneath the  flag will be the words, “Lest We Forget”… perspective.

Very recently, I attended a memorial service for a young firefighter, killed senselessly in a one car traffic crash. His 8-year-old son. who was also in the truck. was treated and released. I watched that young boy stand strong and true at the service, as I’m sure hie believed would make his daddy proud. I wondered about where he wouled be in ten years… perspective.

Quite some time ago I began work on my certification for trauma counseling for frist respoonders and for veterans and military personnel. But, I got busy. There was no deadline so I pushed it aside. Then, after awhile it made its way to my side table and then my bookshelf. It’s back on my desk again and that is the result of perspective.

A True Patriot

“…a person who claims to love America and support America but fled to Canada in the 1960’s does not qualify as a patriot. I can agree with that. Whether you do or not matters little here because, quite frankly, I’m the author. You can write your own blog.”

In tribute to all those whose full measure of devotion was required

11 September 2013  Patriots’ Day in the U.S.A.      

Dr. Ross L. Riggs

All across the nation today there will be blogs written, such as this one, remembering 9-11 and calling for Americans to stand tall against those who would declare themselves an enemy of this great Republic. Like many, I found it disheartening how soon after 9-11 the flags stopped flying from almost every porch in America and how soon the echoes of those in prayer for our country and its people, its soldiers, seemed to fade.

Did you know that a person can be a patriot when he or she stands strong on behalf of their country and that they can also be a patriot when they stand strong against their government? Allow me to quote from a most hallowed source, Dictionary.Com.

dictionary

1. a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion.

2. a person who regards himself or herself as a defender, especially of individual rights, against presumed interference by the federal government.   (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/patriot?db=dictionary)

 

A person who loves and supports and defends both the country and its interests with devotion is a patriot. Look carefully at that sentence because it speaks volumes. The article ‘or’ is only in one place in that sentence, between his and her, nowhere else. It is not a person who loves or supports his or her country. It is not a person who loves and supports just his or her country but the country and its interests. I find that interesting for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is a question that comes to my mind. Who determines a country’s interests? For example, are America’s interests inclusive of strong traditional marriage or the ‘I can marry anyone I love’ type of marriage? Who determines what America’s interests are? I’m not going to argue that here; it is just a question that came to mind. Who gets to make those choices?

 

So, back to the first definition: the patriot loves, supports and defends (all three) that would mean that a person who claims to love America and support America but fled to Canada in the 1960’s does not qualify as a patriot. I can agree with that. Whether you do or not matters little here because, quite frankly, I’m the author. You can write your own blog. But notice there is yet another qualifier in that first definition… “with devotion.” What does that mean, exactly? Someone once explained to me that a hen is devoted to giving us something of her so we can have a healthy breakfast. A pig, on the other hand, is committed to it. That may seem like semantics, unless of course, you are the pig.

 

Dictionary.Com informs us that devotion is “profound dedication; consecration” and even “earnest attachment to a cause or person, etc.” What that means is that we all know what ‘devotion’ is; we just cannot explain it without using other modifiers that are also undefinable; but somehow we just know devotion when we see it.

 

The second definition of ‘patriot’ is “a person who regards himself as a defender, especially of individual rights against presumed interference by the federal government.” Here is where I think the article “OR” can go…  You can be a patriot devoted to your country OR you can regard YOURSELF as a defender, sticking up for the individual, which in this case probably would also be YOURSELF, against the big bad federal government. For some reason, I think perhaps that Dictionary.Com understands the distinction between a Patriot and a patriot. One flies the American flag, if not every day, at least on all holidays; and in the meantime if it is stored, it is stored properly. The patriot is probably running around with cardboard license plates because he doesn’t have to do what the government says! He’s an amurican! – but only in an individual sort of way.

 

A True Patriot is regarded by others, who know him or her, as a Patriot. Most true patriots probably think very seldom of themselves. They are usually looking out for their families, their neighbors, their co-workers, the sick, the elderly, the infirm, and the orphaned. They are the ones out for a walk and just out of habit, reach down and pick up that piece of litter someone else threw and they carry it until they find the right place to drop it. The true patriot not only makes it to the voting polls each time but maybe volunteers there or calls someone they know who might need a ride to get to the polls.

 

A true patriot stands, if he is able, when the flag passes. He or she has a hand over their heart during the anthem at a ball game, not ordering a hot dog. He or she probably will shed a tear when they see a wounded vet and they may just haul off and punch some punk that belittles that vet in some way. I know a patriot, a true one. Actually, I know several but the one I’m thinking of never had a chance to serve in the military, although he would have liked to. He gets really steamed when he sees anyone act in a demeaning way toward the symbols of our nation.

 

Dictionary.Com actually has a third definition of a patriot. It does begin with a capital ‘P’. It has a range of 37 miles and carries a 200 pound warhead. On this Patriots’ Day I seek to honor all those who have given their full measure of devotion to our great country. America is exceptional and I thank God for each of you and your families. I wish for you this holiday that you will find something about our country that makes you smile. I have another wish as well. I would like all of the enemies of our beloved United States of America to have an opportunity to meet a true patriot, whether it is one whose heart proudly beats for America or one that travels up to 37 miles to release a 200 pound warhead!

 

May God bless America and may America bless God!

It’s an Honor

“Thank you for serving!” That was refreshing even to dad’s ears, especially since dad is from the Vietnam era.

10 MARCH 2013

There he stood… tall and strong, somehow much older than his 19 years. The crease of his maroon beret, the proud symbol of a U.S. Airborne combat solder, was sharp and it fell exactly so over the side just touching the top of the ear. Everything about him showed that he took pride in his accomplishment and in serving his country. Of course, for dad also a veteran, his son is great source of pride in him. A father once said, ‘No matter what your children do, part of it rests on the parents. And that is regardless whether it is good or bad!’

daniel 325 1st brigade red falcons hhc

What struck Dad on this day were two things. First, the number of people in public who took the time to walk up to his son and say “Thank you for serving!”  That was refreshing even to dad’s ears, especially since dad is a Vietnam era vet.  Then came the second, most amazing response that he heard his son say each time he received a ‘thank you.’ With a polite smile and a nod of his head, the son simply replied, “It’s an honor.”

On this particular day, the principal and teachers at Tuslaw Elementary School facilitated a surprise for two of their students, the niece (in kindergarten) and nephew (1st grade) of a soldier. What a joy to see the excitement in their eyes when their hero appeared!

A surprise visit from his soldier uncle and newest aunt!
A surprise visit from his soldier uncle and newest aunt!

Thank You to all our men and women in uniform! It’s an honor to be served by you.

A Clash of Cultures

A small metal sign… drove home to me the hundreds of years of sacrifice, grief, pain and pride, (yes, pride) that the sign represents.

Riggs Ministry Minute: When there’s only a minute for ministry   

www.docriggs.com  

 

Most of us might be surprised at the vast number of sub-cultures within our own culture. Some would consider the point so off-handedly that, even if these subcultures exist, all that is necessary is to be aware of them, nothing more. We certainly do not need another genre for which we must be politically correct. Already the current lists have made it to the far edges of ad-nauseum. Why belabor yet another category that seeks to be recognized, romanticized, eulogized, and deified?

This, however, is a culture that has been with us since the beginning of our great country, indeed throughout the history of civilization. Yet, the American version of this culture is one that does not seek recognition. Most of the time, this culture prefers to be unnoticed. A simple tip of the hat in recognition of their sacrifice is enough because there is little our supra-culture can do. Perhaps the only way to benefit this culture is to keep the virtue of our American culture at its very best.

Regrettably, I have been as little mindful of this sub-culture as most others, at least until recently. Recent events have driven home to me their existence. It was not in some grandiose presentation that I was pricked at my conscience, nor was it at some hall of heritage that I was alerted to their presence. It was, of all things, a small sign in the parking lot of a grocery store. I had never seen such a sign before and unless any American has a chance to go shopping at a PX or BX (post or base exchange) on a military installation, you will probably never see one yourself. A small metal sign that drove home to me the hundreds of years of sacrifice, grief, pain and pride, (yes, pride) that the sign represents.

The sign simply read: “Reserved Parking Gold Star Families” and reading it I was struck with such a sense of astonishment. I was astounded that I had never given so much as a passing thought to the thousands of families that carry on in day to day life, after the ceremonies, after the condolences, after the cards and visits have stopped. The ‘Gold Star’ families, those who have lost someone in combat, keep on with life, with shopping at the PX, with bills and car repairs and every day with a hole in their heart where a loved one, a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine lives now as a memory.

Praise God for Gold Star Families and may we be reminded of them every day. When we are, may we ask God to bless them as they carry on, living a life Reserved for Gold Star Families.

(For more information about the history behind the Gold Star, follow the link to Gold Star Mothers)

Our family proudly displays a ‘Blue Star’ emblem in our front window and a similar decal on my wife’s car. Praise God that it is now a Blue Star and if God should ordain that it ever be Gold, may we honor the work of these proud families with our own.