LETTER — I am changed

Patti Smith

Four years ago I stood looking down a road. A van was taking my son to deliver him to the United States Marine Corps.

I watched until the van was no longer in view, and continued watching for a little while longer.

With tears streaming down my face and heart pounding wildly I was too fearful to even move.

After training he would go to war. I stood there overwhelmed, unable to comprehend it all. Six months later my other son enlisted as well.

What would I do with myself during this time to get through while staying strong for my sons?

Today I stand looking down another road. He’s coming home today — for good! My lanky boy with long, unkempt hair, lacking purpose and direction will return to me a tall, lean Marine along with his wife, infant daughter, three dogs and two tours of duty under his belt.

Did he find his purpose and direction?

Oh yeah.

Among other medals he was awarded a Navy Achievement Medal with Combat “V” Distinguishing.

He spotted insurgents planting an I.E.D. and did away with them.

Though the medal and commendation hang on the wall, we never talk about it.

I wish to thank Central Illinois for supporting my sons, our family and all of our troops. Thank you for putting aside your opinions of the war and politics and supporting our men and women serving in harm’s way.

You are to be commended for weathering this chapter in America’s history in a productive manner.

Thank you for your prayers and regularly asking me, “How are your sons doing?”

Evidence of your genuine concern are a lifeline to a military family.

Although both sons are back in the Peoria area returning to civilian life, I’ve re-enlisted.

It seems I’ve found my own purpose serving as executive director for a national non- profit organization with the privilege of overseeing thousands of volunteers supporting our troops, veterans, and Gold Star families.

My hero sons initially opened this life changing door but so many more have nurtured and sustained it.

The memory of our fallen who never made it home to enjoy living out a full life is ever present within me. I am friends with some of their mothers.

And, I am compelled and energized to follow their example to give back until my last breath.

The USMC has a motto: “The change is forever.” Truly I am forever changed.

God bless America; home of the free because of the brave.