In the middle of all my Memorial Day shopping and party plans, I heard something so poignant, so true and so profound…

….that it stopped me in my tracks.

It was a story of a World War II vet who was visiting the memorial in Washington DC and someone stopped him to thank him for his service.  They told him how much they appreciated him and what a sacrifice he had made for his country and that he was such a hero for fighting for our country overseas.

“I’m no hero,” he said.

“The true heroes are the ones that never came home.”

The truth of that statement was like an arrow to my heart.

I’m so grateful and thankful for the gift of today because of all the men and women who have gone before. I’m able to raise my children and my family in a place full of liberty and opportunity and independence. I’m able to live in a country where freedom is truly free because of the sacrifice of others.

And for that?

From the bottom of my heart—I say thank you.

A giant immeasurable thank you to all those who have served and continue to serve.

You are my heroes.

So to celebrate Memorial Day, I thought I’d re-share a story—one of my favorites.

It’s about a sailor who sailed away to fight for his country when the future looked so uncertain and precarious and unsure.

And the miles and miles of ocean between us….

….and the sweetest I love you I ever heard.

A long time ago on a navy base far away, I stood in a royal blue dress with brass buttons and shoulder pads and control top pantyhose with high heels —wearing bright red lipstick and red Lee Press-On Nails.

I desperately clutched a metal chain link fence with tears streaming down my face…..

….and I watched as my new husband sailed away.

Frantically, I ran down the fence with eyes blinded by tears, hoping to catch one more glimpse before the ship turned the corner and headed out of the harbor. My shoulders shook with sobs as the ship grew smaller and smaller on the horizon and eventually disappeared.  Even now if I close my eyes, I can still see hundreds and hundreds of sailors lining the rails of the decks of the ship that day.  Each one standing at attention, saluting proudly with their crisp white uniforms gleaming in the sun and their heads held high as they left for the Persian Gulf war to fight the unknown.

Not one of those sailors knew what the future held.

Not one of those sailors knew what the fighting would bring.

Not one of those sailors knew if they would even return home. There was talk of nuclear bombs and chemical weapons and radiation and things that would make even the strongest of hearts quiver a little.

And still?

They sailed on.

After my husband’s ship sailed away, days and weeks went by, and as the country watched with rapt attention—the conflict escalated.

The president announced that it looked like war was imminent. Troops were ready to engage. The battle was about to begin.

And then?

One day I arrived at work to see terrifying night-time pictures flashing across the national news with bomb after bomb and explosion after explosion….

….a half a world away.

The fighting had begun.

I stood silently in that newspaper office as my world crumbled around me.

I was here and he was there and the sheer helplessness of the situation overwhelmed me.

I wanted to talk to him.  I wanted him to tell me it would be okay.  I wanted him to reassure me that he was safe. I wanted to know that he was alright and that he was coming home and that he was going to sail back into the harbor on a sunny day wearing his dress whites saluting proudly on the deck of that ship….

….and that all was right with the world.

But it wasn’t.

And I felt my heart crack in two.

At that moment, I heard my name over the loud speaker.  It was the publisher’s office calling.  “KariAnne, please report to the office,” they said.  “You have a call from a Navy officer.”

A call?

Really?

From an officer?

I didn’t want a call.

Not even a little.

All the calls I had ever seen in the movies from officers during wartime never ended well.

I entered the office and took the phone and faintly whispered smallest tiniest hello that sounded like a cross between a mumble and a squeak.

“Mrs. Wood?  This is a ship-to-shore call.  We have your husband on the line.  Please be aware that all conversations on this call will be repeated several times to transfer information to the ship.  Please begin when you are ready,” the voice boomed over the line.

I didn’t understand.

A ship-to-shore call?

I didn’t know what to say, so I began with “Hello again.”

And then I heard it—across the miles of land and ocean—the hello repeated from military personnel to military personnel over and over and over again.

“Hello again.”  “Hello again.”  “Hello again.” “Hello again.”

Until it reached my husband half a world away.

And then the message came back from that sailor across those ocean miles. “Hi, cutie…..I’m fine.” “Hi, cutie…..I’m fine.” “Hi, cutie…..I’m fine.” “Hi, cutie…..I’m fine.”

WHAT?

He was fine?

He was okay?

He was safe?

I screamed and giggled and spun around and the heavens parted and I heard the hallelujah chorus.  And then I shouted into the phone with all of the joy and exuberance and adoration I could muster…….”I LOOOOOOOOVVVVVVVE YOOOOOOOU.”

Except I forgot.

Because the “I love you” didn’t end there.

It wasn’t just between us.

There were five people listening on the call.

*sigh*

And so it ended up sounding a little like this….. “I LOOOOOOOOVVVVVVVE YOOOOOOOU.” “I LOOOOOOOOVVVVVVVE YOOOOOOOU.” “I LOOOOOOOOVVVVVVVE YOOOOOOOU.”

….”I LOOOOOOOOVVVVVVVE YOOOOOOOU.”

I could hear the smiles in the voices of each of those veteran military personnel from one end of the earth to the other.

And each of them said it with all the joy that my “I love you” was intended to convey.

Truth?

In the end, I didn’t care if the world was listening.

Because that sailor with the twinkling eyes didn’t miss a word. He heard it all.

And he knew that I adored him.

And would be waiting for the day he returned.

He laughed out loud when he heard it and sent his own message back.

Winging its way across that ship to the shoreline with the static and the beeps and the blips via half a dozen scratchy military personnel’s voices….

.….came the sweetest “I love you” I ever heard. 🙂

PS I’ve told this story to our kids and they were confused.

Why didn’t I just call him on my cell phone? 🙂

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Comments

  1. Image for laura laura

    love this story! Remember this time period as we were newlyweds and I was starting grad school. And I was thinking I wonder if my stat class will be cancelled with the announcement of deployment of troops. That scary period our generation had not experienced. Thank you to your husband for his service and the cute photos! I wish we were. rughbors. laura

  2. Image for Debbie Debbie

    Oh this is the sweetest story ever❣️ My heart was pounding and I think that I was holding my breath as I read each word. How appropriate that you shared your beautiful love story on this very special Memorial Day. Thank you to your husband for his service. My husband was in the Navy too! 🇺🇸 Enjoy your day dear friend.

  3. Image for Diana Diana

    Thanking your husband for his service and you for a wonderful story. The pictures are super cute too ! Happy Memorial Day....

  4. Image for Kimberly Kimberly

    This is the sweetest! ♥️🇺🇸 I remember that war well. I was in college and so scared. Thank you to your husband for serving. My Dad was in the Navy and fought in the Korean War. So thankful your Sailor made it home to you! Happy Memorial Day! I’m going to get a tissue now…

  5. Image for Margaret Margaret

    I love this story! Deployments are hard! So glad he came home! My husband was deployed 3 times after 9/11 and I don't miss those days. My former neighbor told me the story about her husband being on a ship in the Pacific in WWII. She got 3 letters in 18 months. It was definitely an attitude adjuster for me.

  6. Image for Barbara Barbara

    Awww I love this and the photos we've never seen- what a cutie pie! And you too, rocking that red lipstick and big smile:) May we never forget!

  7. Image for va in NC va in NC

    Thank your husband for his service and thank you for such a beautiful story. Went thru very similar story with my Army husband. Different time (1950's) He did come home and we had a beautiful life and 2 children and many years together.

  8. Image for Jodena Beale Jodena Beale

    What a heart wrenching love story to tell forever and ever. Please let him know we all thank him for his protection. No one could ever thank any of them enough. Love each other always. Happy Memorial day to him, you and every person that has served or still is.

  9. Image for Linda Scott Linda Scott

    Funny what your kids said about the cell phone, LOL!! Thank your husband for his service please and we are "The land of the free BECAUSE of the brave!" Read that on a bumper sticker and whole heartedly agree!! May we continue to enjoy the freedoms so brilliantly crafted by our Founders and defended by our brave Military!

  10. Image for Vicki Vicki

    You just made my day! The day I met my husband in Hawaii for R&R from Vietnam I was so excited I broke out in hives! Big red splotches all over my body! My neck was beet red and the itch was almost unbearable. I looked like a freak at the airport! But he didn’t seem to care…we were simply excited to be together again. Oh how I wish he was alive today so we could laugh at this story all over again.

  11. Image for Michele M. Michele M.

    Best story ever, KA. It makes my heart sing. And you two look EXACTLY the same - seriously all these years (and children) later and you still look the same. I love you x 5, what a fun phone call. Awl, be still my heart. ♥♥♥♥♥

  12. Image for Marlene Marlene

    I love the stories you tell about you and your husband, they are so wonderful. Have a great day with 'Twinkle Eyes" You made me cry!

  13. Image for PJ PJ

    Beautiful. Thank you for the story about the vet at the Memorial. He was right on. This day is not a holiday for me. It's a time I think about all those who had family that didn't come home and the heartbreak they went through hearing that news. I'm thankful your soldier came home and my thanks to him for his service.

  14. Image for Joanne Joanne

    Such a beautiful story once again. You brought me to tears. Many thanks to your husband, and the many men and women for their service. Too many forget that Memorial Day and our flag represent and honor the many sacrifices they made so that we can live our lives in freedom. Thank you for such a beautiful and poignant post.

  15. Image for Karen B. Karen B.

    Keri Ann, You have an amazing love story and it's always fun to read about. I would have been terrified if my husband had gone off to any war. My husband was drafted during the Viet Nam war but fortunately he was assigned Germany for 2 years. He was then assigned to Viet Name and Nixon declared our departure from that war. Phew. xo, Karen B.

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