By Davalynn Spencer @davalynnspencer
This post first appeared on Nov. 11, 2019. It appears edited today in honor of JPat Branch, *pictured above, Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross recipient, who reported to his last call of duty on Oct. 29, 2021.
When I taught sixth-grade world history, I became accustomed to the grandiose dreams of adolescent boys intent on becoming warriors like the ancient kings they studied.
When I taught English composition at the community college, many of my students were young marines who bore the unseen scars of battles less glamorous than those portrayed in middle-school history books.
Honed and hardened by superior officers and surreal experiences, the veterans sat politely in their plastic chairs and let me tell them how to write cohesive paragraphs for persuasive essays.
Many of those young men had grown up faster than they wanted. They had fought to right the wrongs of others and prevent the encroachment of tyrants who would rule the world at any cost.
I’ve always been proud of those boys-turned-men who listened to me drill the rules of punctuation. They were gentlemen, every one, hiding behind their attentive eyes what they’d seen in places I’d only heard of.
Often, their dreams became nightmares that leaked from their fingers and onto the page in personal essays, giving me a glimpse of the horrors, reminding me that veterans are not only the men and women of my parents’ generation or my own.
They are my children, and will someday be my grandchildren, fighting to protect those who cannot defend themselves.
May their dreams today be restful, their battles ended, their valor rewarded by peace.
God bless them every one.
There is no greater love than
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
John 15:13 NLT
*Thank you, JPat, for sharing the photo from your days in Vietnam. You are loved and remembered by many.
If any man is in Me, he is a new creation.
The words settled inside Eli, pulsating like some living thing. And the voice – he hadn’t listened to it in a while.
The promise was more than a well-delivered sermon from a Sunday pulpit. It belonged to the God he had known before Laura moved away. Before the IED blew up the Humvee. Before Pop died.
“I really do want a fresh start.” Confession clawed its way up his throat. Saying it out loud made it real. Tangible. His stomach clenched, his hands fisted around nothing. He desperately wanted to slough off the old and start over.
“But I need a hand here.”
Lightning split the darkness, and pain slashed the right side of his face. He curled in on himself, clutching his head. The left foot he no longer had shattered and throbbed with every life-spilling pump of his heart. Thunder tore through him with an agonizing cry.
And then it was over.
His breath came in short, ragged gasps, anticipating the pain. But it was gone. Instead, peace bloomed like a silent, surreal grenade.
He leaned his head back against the corral, breathing hard. The night lay still, the land quiet. Nothing stirred. Nothing but a flickering hope deep in his chest. ~The Miracle Tree
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(c) 2019 Davalynn Spencer, all rights reserved.
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