I knew you were “heading out” at 7 am; but I wasn’t quite prepared for what I saw as I watched you walk across the patio and down the steps to your car.
You see I know you’re Commissioned. I know I’ve told everyone who’s questioned why I’m “allowing” you to do this Army thing that you’ve wanted to be involved in “protecting and serving” since you were in Kindergarten.
I know you’ve gone to Africa and Alaska to learn even more about ways to do your job well. I know you slept on a glacier and had to get an IV because you climbed too high and too long and got dehydrated, but you did it so you wouldn’t be disqualified. I know you rope climbed over a ravine with a full pack and thought it was great.
I know you’ve read more books than the average librarian, and you strive for excellence in everything you do.
I know those things and yet, when I saw you take one last moment to straighten your hat to make sure it was “just right” before leaving the house, I realized the name on the back of that Army hat was my last name too, and I couldn’t help but wonder what you know?
Do you know when you walked across the patio I didn’t see a man in full gear, I saw the little boy who walked that same patio in army shorts holding a plastic gun telling his little brother to follow the path?
Do you know I saw the Hardy Boys books and the way you searched until your collection was complete reading every single one?
Do you know I saw the mischievous smile when I caught you doing something that you were being sneaky about - like convincing your toddler brother to get the cookies and when asked about it you said, “What? he got them, I’m just eating them”?
Do you know as you descended the steps at the end of the patio, I saw you taking your first steps across the living room floor and remembered how independent you became once you knew you could get somewhere on your own?
Do you know as you walked just out of my sight I heard the words “I, Noah Hartzell, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the State of Pennsylvania against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the Governor of Pennsylvania and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to law and regulations. So help me God.”
Do you know those words are the reason people say, “Thank you for your service”? Do you know it hurts a little when I see that look on your face thinking you don’t feel you deserve it because you haven’t been deployed yet? You see the thing is…when you said those words, “I do solemnly swear” - you signed up to go if they call. You’ve made the commitment … not knowing where you will go or what you will be asked to do. You’ve sworn to defend the United States wherever and whenever, and you continue to train to do that very thing. THAT is why we say thank you for your service – because training to do those things, knowing someday you WILL be doing those things, deserves thanks.
Do you know how very proud your Dad and I are?
Do you know that the flag proudly displayed in front of our home not only represents our love for our Country, but the gratitude for the men and women who’ve sworn to protect it…including you?
In case you didn’t know, you do now.