- The Washington Times - Friday, November 6, 2009

Dear Sir or Madam: Quite a few years ago, I was born into an Air Force family and launched into what was to be an extraordinary life as a military “brat.” For more than 30 years, my father served this nation, and we followed him - with a couple of exceptions during wartime and war college - just about everywhere he went.

We were, in essence, American gypsies.

My parents moved so much that I attended three high schools in three countries. A suitcase was my constant companion. My sister and I were always asked to share small bedrooms and make new friends every year. It was tough and rough around the edges, especially for Mom. At times, it was scary - like the times we were in England during the Bay of Pigs and the assassination of President Kennedy and did not know if and when the sirens on base would ever stop screeching their calls to high alert. (Dad flew bombers, and he was ready to fly into the fray at any moment.)

Then there was the time when we traveled through East Germany on a train to Berlin - Dad was not allowed to go with us - and had our bunks checked by guards with bayonets, looking to pierce a stowaway or two who may have wanted to travel into freedom with us.


At the same time, we were filled with wonder as we saw firsthand the faces of East German children as we threw American chewing gum out the window of our bus for them to enjoy. You would have thought we were gifting them with diamonds. Their expressions of sheer delight are frozen in my memory. After all, it was just gum.

But then, we also saw the castles and cathedrals of Europe and the place where Mozart was born and “The Sound of Music” was filmed. We learned to ski in Berchtesgaden and saw all of Italy from the back seat of a Volkswagen Beetle convertible (and later discovered the wonder and magic of wine). We drove through the Alps and the fields and farms of France, an experience graced by the “victory” sign as if in blessing each time our American tags were spotted. We went through Checkpoint Charlie and saw the Wall up close and very personally. We gazed upon the thousands of bones of the unknowns at Verdun and were dwarfed by the white cliffs of Dover and the Tower of London. We witnessed the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and saw the places where so many of you marched for so many of us and for so many of them. Hallowed ground, all of it, and sacred turf, honored and hallowed by your trespass.

All of this blends into a tapestry of memories laced with a gush of gratitude for your selfless disregard for your own comfort, safety and livelihoods, which I’m sure often were put on hold, interrupted or destroyed by your simply being in the wrong place at the right time, for all of us.

Truly, there is no greater gift than service and no more perfect liberty than that which is formed by hearts and minds like yours. Your willingness to be in harm’s way and your eagerness to make the way smoother and happier for so many people you never met, and their children, simply defy human logic. Yet that’s just - and exactly - what you do every day of the week, and I know there are many who do not know how to thank you, for there are no words to fully capture their wonder at what you do, how you think and how you just do it withoutthinking. Surely you are God’s special children.

So I write this letter on their behalf, too - because in the big scheme of things, it’s all about light and service - the light that silently shines through us all and the service that connects us each to the other. Thank you for heeding the call and sharing your light. Thank you for protecting our shores and our children and our parents and our friends and our siblings. Thank you for sharing your warrior spirit in the pursuit of a world without war. Thank you for putting so much aside so that so many could have so much.

May God’s grace shine on you and yours in perpetual peace.

Sincerely and humbly yours.

c Linda Joan Strating is a writer living in Northern Virginia.