The empty seat at the table…the reminder that someone who usually is here, isn’t. The sting of missing your brother, your sister, your mom, your dad. That ache is all too real for families past and present who have members serving in our nation’s military…
My daughter, Hannah, participates in a Wednesday night youth program at our church. Every night is a different theme…tonight was “Dress Like Your Favorite Movie Character.” Lots of princesses and pirates and a few Harry Potters in the crowd. The kids totally get into it…like kids do.
Don’t you love that about little kids? Their sheer joy in the mundane. I have seen my two girls roll up into Target, get a free cookie and a bulls-eye dog sticker and you would think they just won the lottery.
I want to feel joy like that.
So anyway, next week at our weekly program, the kids are asked to bring any special veteran in their life for the annual Veterans Day Dinner.
Not Everyone Is Home Tonight
I really appreciate this night each year because too often, our nation’s 22 million veterans aren’t remembered. We forget all the lives that have been given so that we can sit down each night and eat dinner with our family.
We forget that half way across the world, children fear their daily walk to school because of bombing and war. We forget that the men and women who have served in the various branches of the military are someone’s son, someone’s daughter, someone’s parent.
This is why organizations like DAV (Disabled American Veterans) are a blessing in the lives of so many veterans and their families.
DAV provides support for veterans of all generations…whenever they need it.
DAV has created an amazing online tool that lets you create a thank you video for a special veteran in your life through their Thank A Vet site. The process is incredibly simple…upload a few photos, enter your text and choose your music.
But while the process is simple, the outcome is immeasurable. See my own video here honoring my father, a Vietnam veteran.
A Father Not Unlike My Own…
In another lifetime, before I had kids of my own, I was a table parent for the Veterans Day event at our church. The veteran at our table told all about his service in the Korean War and how he had weathered the storm…both the literal one and the figurative one that would ruminate for years in his mind once he came home.
And it reminded me so much of my own father…a Vietnam vet who was forever changed by his years of service.
Read more about his story here:
It made me think about how, even though I didn’t know my dad when he served, there will always be a part of my dad I’ll never know simply because he did serve. All I know is that he served in Chu Lai in 1967. His memories are still vivid, but they aren’t ones that he shares.
The horrors of war that left permanent indelible images in his mind aren’t the kinds of stories he ever wanted to bring back up.
It also made me think about all the many men and women serving in the military today. The husbands and wives who miss their spouse. The children being raised by the parent who’s left behind.
No easy roles in these scenarios.
Everyone gives up something…
The Empty Seat At The Table
And it made me think about all the families sitting down for dinner tonight who look across the dinner table to see a lonely, empty seat.
The one that was for their mom or their dad. The one that might be filled in 6 months… or a year…the one that might never be filled again.
And so next week at church, my own father will be at Hannah’s dinner table to celebrate his service and that of millions of other veterans in this country.
And I’ll say a thank you to him again for what he did so many years ago. And I’ll thank all those who have served and are serving.
And I’ll smile knowing that tonight, the seat at that dinner table is full.
A few minutes will make a lasting impact on that special veteran in your life.
DAV (Disabled American Veterans) is a nonprofit organization that provides a lifetime of support for veterans of all generations whenever they need it, transforming lives in positive ways. Visit dav.org to learn more.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of DAV (Disabled American Veterans). The opinions and text are all mine.