Her hair was up in a pony tail,
her favorite dress tied with a bow.
Today was Daddy's Day at school,
and she couldn't wait to go.
One by one the teacher called
a student from the class.
To introduce their daddy,
as seconds slowly passed.
At last the teacher called her name,
every child turned to stare.
Each of them was searching,
for a man who wasn't there.
"Where's her daddy at?"
She heard a boy call out.
"She probably doesn't have one,"
another student dared to shout.
The words did not offend her,
as she smiled up at her Mom.
And looked back at her teacher,
who told her to go on.
And with hands behind her back,
slowly she began to speak.
And out from the mouth of a child,
came words incredibly unique.
"My Daddy couldn't be here,
because he lives so far away.
But I know he wishes he could be,
since this is such a special day.
And though you cannot meet him,
I wanted you to know.
All about my daddy,
and how much he loves me so.
He loved to tell me stories
he taught me to ride my bike.
He surprised me with pink roses,
and taught me to fly a kite.
We used to share fudge sundaes,
and ice cream in a cone.
And though you cannot see him.
I'm not standing here alone.
"Cause my daddy's always with me,
even though we are apart
I know because he told me,
he'll be forever in my heart"
With that, her little hand reached up,
and lay across her chest.
Feeling her own heartbeat,
beneath her favorite dress.
When she dropped her hand back down,
staring straight into the crowd.
She finished with a voice so soft,
but its message clear and loud.
"I love my daddy very much,
he is my shining star.
And if he could, he would be here,
but heaven's just too far.
You see he is a soldier
and died just this past year
When a roadside bomb hit his convoy
and taught Americans to fear.
But sometimes when I close my eyes,
it's like he never went away."
And then she closed her eyes,
and saw him there that day.
And to her mothers amazement,
she witnessed with surprise.
A room full of daddies and children,
all starting to close their eyes.
Who knows what they saw before them,
who knows what they felt inside.
Perhaps for merely a second,
they saw him at her side.
"I know you're with me Daddy,"
to the silence she called out.
And what happened next made believers,
of those once filled with doubt.
Not one in that room could explain it,
for each of their eyes had been closed.
But there on the desk beside her,
was a fragrant long-stemmed pink rose.
And a child was blessed, if only for a moment,
by the love of her shining star.
And given the gift of believing,
that heaven is never too far.
God bless all of our soldiers and their families who sacrifice so much for our freedom.
Spouses and family members serve too.
I would like to say something about those who have been "drafted" into the military by a spouse or parent. Their sacrifices frequently go unnoticed, and the importance of their contribution is often overlooked or taken for granted.
Family support of the military member is critical to his or her performance. Contrary to the belief that soldiers are only as good as their leaders, the truth of the matter is that the soldier is only as good as the people who support him or her in their everyday life.
We lived on an Army post. Every morning at 0700 hours we were awakened to the sound of reveille. At 1700 every day a cannon fired which signaled the end of the work day. At 2300 every evening we were serenaded by Taps. Every house on our street flew an American flag, not just on flag day, but every day.
Patriotism isn't something we celebrate only on the Fourth of July, it is a way of life for us. In every house on every post lives the spouse and family members of a soldier, but the soldiers aren't always there. They are in Bosnia, Saudi, Korea, Iraq or any one of a hundred other countries throughout the world where they might be needed, and we are left to "hold down the fort".
I have a plaque that says, "Army wife - toughest job in the Army." This is an accurate description of all military family members of all branches. I am not just speculating on this, I speak from experience. I am a military spouse who is also an Army veteran. It was much easier being a soldier than it is being the family member of a soldier.
I volunteered to be in the Army. It was what I wanted to do. I was drafted as a military dependant, and there are times when it is not what I want at all. Soldiers choose to live this lifestyle, but the family members don't.
This fact does not diminish the sacrifices that family members are required to make for the sake of their country. They must be resourceful, capable, independent, and if you don't have at least a little bit of gypsy in your soul, the nomadic lifestyle you are forced to live can be devastating.
Military dependents are anything but dependent. They are a uniquely adaptable group of talented individuals from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. They are required to be ambassadors to the world in the truest sense of the word, and they do, as a whole, represent their country well.
We may be reluctant patriots, but we serve judiciously, and we serve with pride.
Cheryl Harvey Hill, Military Spouse and Veteran - WAC/RA/ARNG
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