The Man on the Honor Flight

10686785_10203126098255503_2263128286258544606_nToday is a very special day for a very special man. My brother-in-law, Steve, will be boarding a plane for an Honor Flight to Washington, DC. If you are not familiar with an honor flight, these flights take a veteran to Washington DC, where they can see memorials honoring those who have gone before. What Steve will see today includes the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and The Vietnam Wall, both of which will be moving experiences for him. This blog is a letter to a man who is not only my brother-in-law, but also a brother to me.

Dear Steve, Little did we know how big a part of our lives you would be when Sharron brought you home for the first time. I remember looking up and seeing all 6’4″ of you and being amazed at how tall you were. What I have discovered since then is that not only are you tall in height, you are tall in spirit. We have shared a lot of memories through the years.

I am sure all of us will never forget my 13th birthday when you and Sharron took me to a dance and afterwards the little VW bug you were driving flipped over after skidding on the rocks by the bridge. That was quite a night and I still have the occasional achy shoulder from my broken collar bone!

I will never forget hearing the news of your draft notice that was waiting in the mail after your honeymoon. We were all so anxious as you drove off to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. While you were in the Army, Tammy was born. It was amazing to watch Tammy say her first words, take her first step, and all of her other firsts. But it was sad that you could not see them because you were in Vietnam, serving as a medic. I loved that you were nicknamed “Doc,” and the men you served with were grateful for your compassion and serving. It wasn’t until years later that we learned you had earned a Medal of Valor for your distinguished bravery in rescuing men under heavy fire. And though you often battle the demons of those who didn’t make it, you were certainly a hero to those who are still alive because of your selfless actions.

I am sorry that when you returned from Vietnam, you, like many others of your generation were treated with scorn and disdain. The cost for our Vietnam veteran’s was high. Not only were many of them in a “war” that they had no stake in, they also were treated poorly when they returned to the United States. I truly regret that America didn’t honor their soldiers more. After experiencing the dampness of those Vietnam jungles, one of your only requests is your need for dry, clean socks.

You had a job waiting, a family who loved you, and a place to call home. You rarely talked about the war, and with most of us you did not share your deep feelings about the things you experienced. I loved hearing you share when we rode the Ducks in Branson and went through the area with old military vehicles. You talked about the ambulance and how it brought back memories. I think it is only lately that we all realize the high cost to you.

You are one of the most patient and giving people I have ever known. And when I say patient, I mean long-suffering! I will never forget when I turned 16, and you let me drive your 57 Chevy, a standard shift with an H on the steering wheel. I will never forget the look on your face as I was trying to downshift and turn at the same time and went up the neighbor’s embankment and back down again! Then there is the time I begged you let me drive your brand new, bright red with a black top, Dodge Charger. It was a beautiful car–your pride and joy. I had to haltingly confess to you that I “just might have clipped the front end of your car on the back end of your truck.” You still tease me about the “might have.” It is amazing how gracious you were towards me.

Through the years, Steve, you have been surrounded by females and put up with all of us. Not only have you put up with Sharron, but also with your two daughters, and all of the various DeLay women! You know us well and put up with our shenanigans. I love how you loved my Daddy and considered him your own. Your patience is pretty unlimited and we only ruffle your feathers deliberately on occasion. We all adore you, you know!

Not only are you patient, you are one of the strongest men I know, and have faced life with a positive attitude, a sense of humor, and great sensitivity for the pain of others. You were determined to function again after you survived a horrific crash that left you in critical care and unable to work for a year. You survived the unexpected death of a daughter, even though it has left a big hole in your heart. You loved unconditionally while we have made some poor choices and done some stupid things!

Your unfailing sense of humor, your love for my sister and family, and your faithfulness is amazing. You, my dear brother, are my hero and it is a joy for me to call you brother! I hope you have had a good flight and I am forever grateful that you are a man of integrity who sets the example for others. Thank you.

I don’t say it enough, but I love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck. Love, Linda

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