We Salute You!
Veteran’s Day 2005, I attended a parade in my hometown. A large sized eastern city. As I was walking down the parade route I saw an Army Veteran standing in uniform ceremonially saluting every group that marched past him. Goosebumps rose up on my skin and a swelling of pride rose in my heart as tears came to my eyes, realizing that this is a picture without the necessity of words.
I asked the gentleman, if I could take his photograph, saluting. Once home, I showed the photo to a fellow photographer who commented on what a great picture, did I get a release? No, I replied then he said, ”that’s too bad”. I remember thinking that I must find him. Three thousand miles separated us and I had no idea what his name was or where he lived. Looking more closely at the picture, I discovered a clue, I could read his nameplate on his uniform, Staude. Without knowing if he resided in the city or one of many suburbs, it was going to be nearly impossible to find him. Looking up the name at an online directory site, I saw about a dozen Staude’s in the city’s directory. If it wasn’t there I would have to look in each suburb of the city. A daunting task!
I recruited my mom to call the numbers and ask if any persons at the number attended the Veteran’s Day parade that year. On the first call, a woman answers the phone and replies yes to my mom’s inquiry that her husband was at the parade. By the youthful sound of the woman’s voice my mom explained that it couldn’t be her husband that we were looking for. My mom went on to explain and described the elder Mr. Staude. The woman affirmed that she knew who my mom was looking for because her husband described the same man to her. She then had her husband call my mom back when he got home. He described his meeting with Mr. Staude a few years earlier. Being in the Navy, he has attended many Veteran’s Day parades. He too was drawn to Mr. Staude watching him salute the participants of an earlier parade. Approaching the WWII vet, they spent about twenty minutes together enjoying small talk. Before parting company, they shook hands and the Navy guy looked at the nameplate only to see his own last name staring back at him. Amazed, he said he was a Staude also. They discovered that they shared distant relatives and never knew about one another.
The elder Mr. Staude was eight on the directory list. I may have found him eventually. I know it wasn’t coincidence that I would be able to find him. It was Providence. That card is very popular and brings a smile to all who see it. It was meant to be!
Memorial Day, 2006
We attended a moving ceremony at Tahoma National Cemetery. As we walked towards the staging area, the waves of American flags dressing the sea of tombstones where the ones who served have been laid to rest, set the tone for the ceremony of honoring those who served. At the ceremony’s conclusion, I saw a Marine in his dress uniform kneeling at the base of a fresh, white tombstone, walking by, we noticed that there were more tombstones which were whiter than the other’s. A group of them appeared to be all together as though planned that way, dressed with banners, balloons and flags. As we approached them, it was evident that the stones hadn’t seen the harshness of the elements yet. Seeing the one thing in common on all the stones was the word Iraq. My eyes began stinging, my vision blurred. Once again, my attention turned to the lone Marine still kneeling at a grave.
Approaching him some time later, I discovered some remarkable things about this Marine. His job was to receive his Marine brother’s bodies and to meet with the fallen Marine’s families. He was assigned to answer their questions and to assist them through the maze of details surrounding their son’s burial. As I discovered more about him one statement he made I will never forget, “I have 7 moms ma’am, one being my own”. He made a point to keep in touch with the Gold Star Moms, making sure they were doing all right. True to the Proud Tradition of the Marines, that fallen Marine was his brother. Their moms, his moms. It was an honor to meet such a young man.
I wanted to use the picture I had taken of him for a card. He said that as far as he was concerned I could. Knowing that I would need permission from the family of the fallen Marine he was honoring, I stated my concern. He replied with, “let’s ask his mom“. As I waited for him to bring her to me, I felt a panic come over me. What possibly can I say to this Gold Star Mom. As she approached, I noticed how calm and composed she was. I was the one falling apart inside. She worked through so much of her grief. At first, I couldn’t say anything I just gave her a hug, hoping to find the right words to express my sorrow for her loss. As she shared about how her precious son died, I knew another layer of healing was being applied.
As another Gold Star Mom approached, I shared about my intentions with this card company. They both agreed that it was a great way of honoring the military community. I received the permission that I needed in order to display the name of her son. He represents all the fallen in war and a visual reminder of their sacrifices. What I realized was for every name we can see etched on that stone there are the names of the family members unseen. Their sacrifices are etched on their hearts.
Heart in Snow
At the conclusion of a Christmas party for the members of the Bremerton Army National Guard Unit Charlie troop 1st – 303 Cavalry which our son was a member, we headed to our car. Earlier that day we had a light snowfall. As the guy’s came and went they left multiple cookie cut designs of boot treads. I happened to look down and there in the midst as though placed upon the sidewalk amongst the boot prints was this distinct shape a soft edged heart. I felt comfort and peace that God would be watchful over these men and the paths they find themselves on. This unit returned from Iraq suffering the loss of one from non- combat injuries while serving our country.
December 7, 1941 Art Peters was only 15 years old. He joined the Navy at 17 after talking his mother into signing a waiver making him eligable. His dates of service was 7/29/43 – 4/21/46. He served during WWII as an enginee (motor machinest – EMD enginmen) on the USS Lyman. He was on board for 26 months straight. During that time, he was only granted for one night of leave but no shore leave was granted. Before the Korean War, he served as a submariner reservist. During the Korean War he served from 5/11/51 – 3/2/53.
He graduated highschool in 2003 and attended the Senior Prom with his lovely wife, Gloria, who also served in the Navy. Together they visit middle schools and highschools sharing the history of WWII.