Four-year-old Susie jumps out of her hiding place. “Boo!”
Expecting a fun reaction, the tiny girl doesn't understand why her daddy's face shows confusion instead of delight. Instead of playfully scooping her into his arms, he backs away, sweat beading on his face.
Susie's eyes fill with tears. She can't hear her daddy's heart pounding as he bolts out of the room, looking for a safe place. But none exists. Not since defending her and her mommy on the battlefield.
“Why won't daddy play with me?” Susie cries into her mom's shoulder.
“Your daddy is still getting used to being home again after fighting in a war,” she says, gathering her close. “He heard a lot of loud noises and saw some pretty scary stuff. Instead of surprising Daddy like that, why don't you show him the games on your closet shelf?”
Steve hears them talking and tries to shake off the familiar hopelessness, fearing he'll never be the man he once was. He picks up his Bible and reads the verse he underlined that morning: “The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him” (Psalm 29:7 ESV).
He closes his Bible and prays. He knows it'll take time, but eventually he'll be okay.*
I think about our service men and women like Steve, especially when I see TV ads that solicit support for our wounded veterans. I wonder how they're coping after returning from war.
How do they deal with post-traumatic stress disorder? How hard is it to learn to dress themselves with a severe brain injury? Or to raise a child after losing their sight? Or to hug their spouse with two prosthetic arms?
Most of us will never know such hardship. I doubt we'll ever be able to appreciate our service men and women (and their families') sacrifice enough – much less know how to express our gratitude. But I hope we –as a nation and individually – will never stop seeking ways to do so.
*A fictional story
Sheryl H. Boldt is the author of the blog, www.TodayCanBeDifferent.net. You can reach her at SherylHBoldt@gmail.com.