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American FlagMy Final Veterans Program

Jessica Cummings

On November 10th, 2018 I attended my final veterans program at Hudson ISD. With it came some smiles, of course tears, but most importantly, memories. When I watched Murphy Mcdurmott set the empty table in honor of those taken as prisoners of war, I couldn't help but recall the first program I attended. I could see myself sitting on the other side of the gym, in a crowd of 8th grade strangers as it was my first year at Hudson but that didn't matter. When the lights went out and the spotlight illuminated that beautiful white tablecloth, I was completely alone. My mother, whom I loved dearly and had never spent even a month without was thousands of miles away from me serving our country for a long and painful year. For the first time I spent my birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas without her. That day was more stressful than most because we were supposed to be skyping almost every night but that entire week she was completely silent. Afghanistan was a scary place and I had known that she already was being attacked daily. I remembered her trying to make light about how frustrated she was having to wake up way too early every morning in order to be rounded together with her battalion and counted to make sure everyone was accounted for and had not been killed. Although she promised time and time again that she was safe, I did not believe her. It was in that moment that the thought that she wouldn't be coming home began to creep over me for the first time and with each item delicately placed on that dreaded table my heart became lead and slowly began to sink into the pit of my stomach. Every day after felt like an eternity as more horrible thoughts flooded my mind and I needed her home.

I am one of the lucky ones, my mom made it back safely but no matter who it is, the war always comes home. For months she could not sit anywhere in a building unless she could see the exit. I remember church was one of the worst places. Every weekend consisted of at least one meltdown because she thought we were going to be attacked and she had no way to make sure the entire family would be safe. We tried going to Disney World in hopes of bringing my her back to her cheerful self  but she was constantly tense and with every unfamiliar movement she would flinch. Everyone was a threat, no one could be trusted. Driving was was another challenge, items on the side of the road, a plastic bag, a tire, were always mines. The stress would tear her apart and most nights were spent drowning in a sea of tears and suffocating in her nightmares. But again, my story is a good one. It took a while, but I got my mother completely back. There are still so many families who will never get to see their lovers, mothers, daughters, sons or fathers return. There are also those who may have had their loved ones come back only to be reunited with a complete stranger, broken down permanently by war. My mother has yet to share a story with me about the gruesome and nightmarish side of her time in Afghanistan but I have heard many others from those who have yet to return to who they used to be but these stories are far too horrifying to share.

Every year since my mother returned to me, when they called for the sons and daughters of veterans to stand up, I stood with pride in honor of her. There has yet to be a year that I haven't shed tears for those who have been dealt a lesser fate. Veterans Day is such an important day and I hope that throughout the years as the suffering of warfare becomes less familiar to more and more people, I pray that this day will never lose its value.

 

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Hudson ISD: Hudson High School
6735 Ted Trout Dr.
Lufkin, Texas 75904
Phone: 936-875-3351
Fax: 936-875-9209