Yesterday the Military Support Ministry for St Joseph's Parish in Modesto handed out flags after several Masses. Our presence on the plaza was not to raise money but to raise awareness. We never should forget that our freedom to go Mass without anyone shooting us was won through the sacrifice of men and women serving their country, no matter the personal cost. And yesterday, as I stood in the bright sunlight and handed little American flags to children and adults in my parish, I was reminded of the cost in a very personal way.
One of the people standing with me that day was a tiny little woman with a beautiful smile. Kathy wore her sparkly red/white/blue heart shaped earrings and her pretty sparkly American themed tee shirt. She smiled a lot and spoke with a sweet voice to those who came up to the table, pointing out the prayer cards and the bumper stickers and various other things we have posted to remind our fellow Catholics that our military needs our support.
On her shoulder was a picture pin of a handsome young man in an Airman's uniform. Her son, Justin.
On June 25, 1996 Justin was asleep in the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. He was in building #131 to be exact and there only because a technical glitch had kept his craft on the ground. He had been scheduled to patrol the no-fly zone. Instead, he was asleep in the tower.
A week or two earlier he had spoken to his mother on the phone. He had described an atmosphere much different in Saudi than he had previously experienced. It was not a good time to be there, he had told her, something was different. The men were told to not go to town alone, to keep their religious items hidden - something was just...different. "Mom', he said. "I have a feeling I am not going to make it out of here. I don't think I am going to get the chance to have the children I want".
Kathy had tried to comfort and advise her son. Give it to God, she told him. Remember to pray, to pray the Rosary and to never forget how much you are loved. He told her he would, told her he loved her and hung up.
The night of June 25th, Kathy had a dream. She dreamed she was looking down a long corridor. At the end of that corridor was the Pieta and she could barely see the face of Jesus as He lay in the arms of his mother, Mary. Suddenly, in her dream, the beautiful sculpture began to move closer to her and as the face of Jesus came into view, it changed.
Suddenly, it was the face of her beloved son.
The doorbell rang at 0430 and she sat up in bed, saying to her husband, "We've lost Justin".
The curse of our society today is we have short attention spans, no sense of history and an inability to care about stuff that happened "a long time ago".
This Veterans' Day let's try not to do that; instead, let's remember those who gave their lives so we might live - so we might go to Mass without being molested,vote with a measure of certainty and otherwise be all that we can be simply by making up our minds to work as hard as we can, as hard as we are willing to work.
This Veteran's Day let's say thank you to the men and women who serve, served and will serve.
This Veteran's Day, let's remember the 19 Airmen killed June 25, 1996 by Al Qeada Terrorists and for God's sake, let's make sure their lives were not lost in vain.
Thank you, Justin Wood, for your service. May you rest in the Arms of Our Lord - carried to Him in the arms of His mother.
Captain Christopher Adams
Captain Leland Haun
Master Sergeant Michael G. Heiser
Master Sergeant Kendall K. Kitson
Technical Sergeant Daniel B. Cafourek
Technical Sergeant Patrick P. Fennig
Technical Sergeant Thanh V. Nguyen
Staff Sergeant Ronald King
Staff Sergeant Kevin Johnson
Sergeant Millard D. Campbell
Senior Airman Earl R. Cartrette Jr
Senior Airman Jeremy A. Taylor
Airman 1st Class Christopher Lester
Airman 1st Class Brent E. Marthaler
Airman 1st Class Brian W. McVeigh
Airman 1st Class Peter W. Morgera
Airman 1st Class Joseph E. Rimkus
Airman 1st Class Justin Wood
Airman 1st Class Joshua E. Woody