I just watched the National Memorial Day tribute concert on TV. As usual, I cried—for an old classmate, for a friend’s father, for all the mothers who’ve lost sons and children who’ve lost fathers, for women my age who shouldn’t have become widows for another forty-plus years. But this time, I cried for a reason I’d never even thought of before.
You may be wondering what this has to do with adoption. Here’s the connection, which I never made before today.
Watching the concert reminded me of a dear family friend, almost a grandfather to me, who fought in Korea. I was reminded of six years ago when we were in Korea to get our daughter. U.S. newspapers were focused on Korean students protesting U.S. military bases in Korea, but on the streets Korean people were literally coming up to us and saying, “Tell the Americans ‘Thank you’”.
Today I couldn’t remember if I’d ever told our friend about that. We’d told a few people, but other things crowded out that memory for a while. Today it was back in full force.
Originally I had thought of it as just about people living in South Korea today who could be grateful they weren’t under Communist rule. But today when I recalled those words, I flashed back to a news article I read a few days ago about North Korea building a palace with marble floors to showcase gifts given to their “Great Leader” during a famine in which huge numbers of North Korean children died.
Then it hit me: if South Korea were under Communist rule today, my children would not have been allowed to emigrate to me. Quite likely they would have been among those who starved to death.
I recall that my old classmate was an eternal optimist. He privately expressed reservations about the politics of the current Iraq war, but was hopeful that he and his fellow soldiers could do some good while they were there. He spoke of rebuilding Iraqi schools. He did not survive long enough to get the chance. But I’ve read of many veterans of current and past wars who spoke of the children—children they treated in mobile hospitals, gave Christmas gifts to in orphanages, provided with water and school supplies and soccer balls. Today I read that parents of another soldier killed in Iraq have started a charity in his memory to help Iraqi children.
Good Americans may disagree about the current war or about what role the United States should play in other countries’ affairs. But surely we can agree that we will always need people willing to serve our country and we can honor them for their sacrifices and those of their families.
Today I have a more personal reason for doing so than ever before. So to all veterans, and to the families of those missing or killed, I say, “Thank you for my children. Thank you on behalf of all the children.”
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