Brooke called to tell me that her little Caped Crusader was attracting quite a bit of attention as he played on the mall's playscape, and that she wished so badly that I could be there to see it. And although I couldn't, I could see it all in my mind's eye. My sweet Chris in his mask and his cape, no doubt outwittting The Joker, vanquishing the Penguin, and conquering the Riddler in the wonderful imaginations of his mind. Here's a pic of our little hero:
After a few minutes, Brooke noticed that a woman near her was watching Chris closely, and that she had big tears welling up in her eyes. Soon, she was actually crying. Concerned, Brooke asked her if she was ok. The woman replied, "My Batman joined the Army yesterday."
Eventually, Brooke did find words and began a conversation with the woman, who explained that her son - a former 4-year old Batman himself - was now a grown man of 18 who had only the day before enlisted in the United States Army. Brooke thanked the woman, praised her for raising such a brave son, and asked her to thank him for his service. They parted with a hug, and Brooke called me shortly thereafter to relate the entire event to me. She could not tell me the story without crying, and I could not hear it without crying.
Brooke and I come from a deeply patriotic family, one in which the U.S. Military has always been highly praised, valued, and admired. Our father and our brother Alan are military history enthusiasts, so we have heard countless tales of soldiers' heroism, selflessness, and integrity, both on and off the battlefield. Additionally, one of our mother's best friends from high school was a POW in Vietnam for several years, and Mom shared tales of his ordeal throughout our childhood. We have always had an enormous appreciation for the men and women of this nation who have served, sacrificed, and suffered with such valor.
In my mind, I continually acknowledge that every single man and woman who make up our Armed Forces is someone's son or someone's daughter. But there was something deeply profound about the encounter that Brooke shared with me. It was so much more visceral. More raw. More real. After all, we are a nation at war, and a mother whose son just joined the Army is a mother whose son will soon face combat. This truth overwhelmed and humbled us both.
Please do not read anything political into my comments. I am as big a political junkie as anyone, but to politicize what I am saying here would be to bastardize what I am saying here. Not everything is about our politics, but everything is about our humanity.
As such, I fall to my knees and I thank God for the brave hearts of the men and women in our military. I thank God for their sense of duty, their guts, and their courage. It's been said that it is hard to find heroes these days, but when I think of these soldiers, I realize that one does not have to look far at all. I pray not only for them, but for their families - for all of the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, children, wives, and husbands who watch those they love depart from them, travel to foreign lands, and risk their very lives for the freedom and safety of others.
I am so thankful for the reminder that this woman at the mall provided for my sister and me, and I pray that its impact would stay with me forever.