(Note: a local resident submitted this piece, but wished to remain anonymous).
The past has a way of sneaking up on people; it can overwhelm you with joy, sadness, and even embarrassment.
Recently I flew to Austin to see my children and grandchildren and was struck by one of these moments. My flight was routed through Atlanta and oddly enough, in all my flights over the past few years I had not been to that area and had forgotten what those flights were like.
My flight had at least 10 young Marines who, having finished their post-boot camp leave, were reporting to their next level of training. Also there were six teens who, having joined the service, were now heading for their basic training. Although the same age as the young Marines, they appeared much younger.
I wished these boys good luck. I wanted to say more but felt that was about all they wanted to hear. Turning from them I saw another young Marine standing with his mother and a young girl.
That’s when the past snuck up on me. I don’t know why, but on the way by this mother I put my hand on her shoulder and simply looked at her. I wanted her to know I understood and she smiled at me in a way that let me know it was OK.
Forty-eight years ago, I was that young soldier standing in Logan Airport flying out to my next assignment, serving in the Infantry in Vietnam. My mother, who was riddled with cancer and in reality only had a short time left, somehow found the strength and intestinal fortitude to get herself composed, dressed nicely, and drive to Boston. She was strong throughout the day and refused to acknowledge the pain and suffering she must have endured both mentally and physically,
I was young and somewhat callous in that I was thinking only about what fate might have in store for me. I did not understand that this incredible person knew that this was likely the last time she would ever see her son.
How do you do that? She did that because my welfare was far more important to her than all of the pain and suffering she endured.
I have over the last 48 years come to understand that a mother’s love is like no other love you or I will ever experience. So to the mother of that young soldier in the past, the mother in the airport, and the mother of my sons I can only say “Thank You,” I understand.