Monday, June 6, 2011

I'll Stand By You

"Courage is when you're afraid, but you keep on moving anyway.
Courage is when you're in pain, But you keep on living anyway " ~ "Courage" by Orianthi

Do you remember standing before your first audience? Maybe you were performing at a dance recital or singing in a choir. I don't remember my first exposure to "the crowd" - but I do remember that tingly feeling I always got in my body when I was a kid standing in front a group. In fact, I still get it sometimes when I have to speak to a large audience. My hands get cold, and I can feel my heart rate increase. But the thing that always calms me is knowing that I have at least one person in that audience who knows and loves me.  And I always try to be that person in the audience for those that I love. 

Billy was recently home for two weeks of post-deployment leave. We had a big group ready to greet him the airport - flags, banners, posters...the whole nine yards. There is a group here called America Supports You that coordinates all the homecoming greetings, and this particular weekend they happened to be hosting their annual banquet as well. The minute they caught wind of Billy's arrival, they asked us to please join them and 1,200 of their nearest and dearest for dinner on Saturday night. 

As it turned out, Billy's flight was cancelled/delayed so much that the ASY group was unable to meet us at the airport - but we were honored to join them at the banquet. We knew they planned to recognize Billy for returning from deployment, but somehow expected there to be a larger number of guys they'd announce from the stage.  Instead, the emcee Walt Howard asked Billy to stand and told the audience that he'd just returned from Afghanistan the night before. 
Kerry, Me, Billy, the girls and some sweet ladies who sat at our table. 

Everyone clapped. Billy stood stoically - unsure where to look or what exactly to do. And we, his family, sat proudly by and clapped with the crowd. Then....all of a sudden....the entire room stood to give him a standing ovation. We joined them in clapping for him - and I think our entire family had tears in our eyes. It was an amazing moment.

I'm sure for any Marine or soldier this would have meant a lot. And would be a huge honor. We know it meant a lot to Billy. More than anyone else in that room could possibly know.

For Kerry and I, it felt as though we were sitting in a vacuum. You know how they do flashbacks in movies where they go into the characters' minds and replay some poignant moment in time?  That's EXACTLY what happened to us.  We flashed back to a scene we never actually saw. To something Billy told me almost a year ago when we were having one of our mom/Billy conversations.

He was telling me about performing in a school play. We were talking about what part he played, and whether or not he enjoyed being in it. What grade he thought he was in, etc. Just normal stuff that we talk about as we try to piece together the puzzle of his childhood. 

He may kill me for posting this.
He explained to me that he'd walked to school to be in the play that evening...and had walked home as well. He had no one there to take him - or to care that he was going to be the male lead in his school play.  But the moment he remembers the clearest was at the end of the play when they called each child forward on the stage. Their family members were asked to stand and join in recognizing their child.   As everyone was stepping forward, Billy knew that he had no one there.  When they called his name - and he stepped forward - no one stood. 

At the time he told me that story, my heart broke once again for the little boy I didn't get soon enough to protect from moments like that. I wanted to go back in time and be there to stand proudly and clap for my son. It's been one of those gut wrenching things I can't get out of my mind.

So at that banquet - as more than 1,200 people stood and clapped for our son - I was honored to be at his side.  I was able to stand there knowing he'd never be alone again and that I would move Heaven and Earth to always be part of his audience. 

As for Billy....that the little boy who stood all alone after his name was called in an elementary school play was finally getting the recognition and honor he deserved for a job well done. And he had his family there to see it. 

I love it when stories end like that. Don't you? 


Kerry said...

Wow! That was such an amazing night. One I'll never forget. And you're right, to see him stand and receive well deserved recognition from his family and 1,200 other people...just an awesome moment. Thanks for writing this one down.

♥ Sarah ♥ said...

This post brought tears to my eyes! So happy that he has you guys in his life, forever! I'm glad you enjoyed his visit and can't wait till you get to see him again!

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