By Boot Girl Myra
In a recent phone conversation with my mom, things got unusually quiet. She was commenting on how much she appreciated attention being driven to value our military. Suddenly I could hear her crying, something she rarely does in public let alone on the phone. When I asked if she was alright, her response was something to the effect of “I hope someday you will tell others about my Uncle Dane.” People need to remember how horrific war is, even when the cause is perceived as for the good.
This Memorial Weekend, I wear my boots in remembrance of Uncle Dane, who lost his life on December 18, 1944, after injuries sustained from his attempt to escape the Palawan Prison camp in the Philippines. Over 78,000 Filipinos and Americans suffered through the Bataan/Corregidor Death March that began when the Americans and Filipinos surrendered to Japan on April 9th from Bataan and May 6, 1942 from Corregidor after months holding out and waiting on the promise of reinforcements. What followed in the 65 mile march north to a POW camp, became one of the most notorious and bone chilling stories coming out of the South Pacific. One-third of them lost their lives just on the walk alone. It is said that many who were “lucky” to survive the march and the ensuing three-year imprisonment in hard labor camps ended their lives within the first year of their return home. The psychological trauma suffered day in and day out for more than three years combined with extreme malnutrition and hard labor forced upon these exhausted men took their toll on them. And they did it to protect our borders here at home. The hard thing for me to comprehend is how little help was available to them upon their return home.
Nobody is drafted into the military these days. It’s a process someone chooses to do at-will. They don’t get paid much to step onto enemy territory to protect those of us stateside. A vast majority enlist because serving their country is their dream and passion. It’s not for everyone, but it benefits all. I love how Boot Girl Heather puts it, “while I know I was never meant to fight, it’s my job to support those who do.”
How much do you do to thank those who stand in harm’s way for you? What “memorial” do you pass on to those around you regarding our fallen heroes? Just yesterday I spoke with Louise Thaxton, a mortgage lender who decided to give her grandchildren a pair of combat boots, to remind each of them of the cost of freedom. No big deal right? Except she bought 15 pairs and in honor of her 16th granddaughter who is a newborn, she bought a pair for the baby’s daddy. I was amazed by her passion to make known to her family the value and the cost of freedom. Then in the very next sentence she said she just ordered 11 pair of boots to take on a business trip to give to friends at their annual company meeting. If you’re running a tally, that’s 27 pairs of boots. Last fall, she bought another 8ish pair to give to co-workers, and encouraged them to do something to thank a soldier. Soldiers are after all, the majority of the clients she helps in the third poorest state in the United States.
There’s a popular phrase “beauty from ashes” that is used to define something good that can come from something destroyed beyond recognition. Louise’s actions have become beauty from the ashes of war. Her simple but generous actions make it possible for those who return from war injured both in mind and body to get the help they need while doing her part to help the next generation remember the Dane’s of this world, who lost his life defending the life he loved as an American.