Dress Blues

This is a video idea I had after my husband said he needed to sing one of his “soldier songs,” Friday night.

As Clique sang, my mind reflected back to photos of my brother-in-law and the losses and challenges he faced over the last several years. It reminded me how he and Clique have played their guitars, and sang some of the same songs together, when we’re back home with the Georgia family.

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I was raised in a very patriotic, God-honoring, Bible-believing home in rural Alabama. We had to shell peas and clean the corn-silks off with an old toothbrush. My grandmother scalded those toothbrushes first, so don’t worry. It was hot in the shade, you didn’t throw away jars or tin cans, and homemade ice cream churned for the afternoon.

And a very large flag pole stood in the front yard.

When I was growing up, you stood for the pledge, the national anthem and Amazing Grace. You did not dare move or keep your hat on, because anyone’s parent would have swatted you, or given you…the glare.

You could have heard a pin drop at Friday night football games as the drumroll signaled the national anthem was about to be played. I was a cheerleader, and we would raise the flag at the beginning of the game. We started out raising it slowly, as if we needed to make it last through the song. That was until a kind, old man took us aside and said the flag needed to be briskly, and then for us to immediately stand at attention.

It did not matter if Carter or Reagan were in office. You did these things because you were an American.

Maybe it’s because that last, great generation knew firsthand the sacrifices their families had made for this country. They had heard the cry of mourning for those who did not come home.

Yes, you showed respect for that flag, because their daddies, grandmothers and grandfathers died so it could fly freely.

That generation did without, some grew up during or shortly after the depression. My grandmother and all of her sisters wore dresses made from flour sacks…not $80 jeans with more holes than fabric.

They had a sense of duty and patriotism we have completely lost in our safe-space, bubble-wrapped-college-campus, cry-me-a-river society.

I thank God my grandparents took me in, and for a little while, I lived in a simple place of a different time period. I heard my grandfather’s voice crack when he would introduce veterans, and then a stern pleading to honor those who make this country free.

I saw tears roll down the cheeks of his best friend, Mr. Andy Horton, when our church would recognize those who were veterans every November. They would stand when their military branch’s song played over the church organ. His was Anchors Aweigh.

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If anyone needs a safe space…to just have a roof over their head and decent medical care, and not VA-government red tape – it is every veteran of this country. But, don’t let me go there right now.

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Memorial Day is about those who aren’t able to stand here today…it’s about those men and women Mr. Andy was probably remembering, all those years later after leaving his Navy ship for the last time.

The ones who didn’t come home.

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Although I had four great-uncles and three uncles who served in the military, plus my husband’s mother, father, and brother, I’ve never personally known the pain of losing someone who was serving in our country’s military.

And then Josh enlisted with the Marines, and I saw firsthand how it impacted my own family.

Before I even begin, I am so grateful Josh came home, but I am sorry he lives with the memories of war and the loss of this friends.

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Josh Cantrell is married to my husband’s youngest sister, Alyssa Cantrell. He was just a baby-faced teenager when I first met him, shortly after I married Clique in 2005. He and Alyssa dated in high school, but broke up for a while, before the Lord brought them back together. They were married in 2010.

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Alyssa, or “Lu Lu,” had their first baby while Josh was in Afghanistan, but this is the young girl I remember whenever we visited my husband’s family in Georgia 2004-2005.

Those little kids she’s holding above are my kids!

In this picture below, they were 15 and 18 with Aunt Lu Lu last year.

And here are my teenagers, who are now older than Lu Lu was when I met her, with Josh and Alyssa’s sweet babies.

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Alyssa had a lot more to worry about with her first baby than I did. There weren’t any mom and dad photos with LK, or the reassuring squeeze of Josh’s hand.

Her husband was in Afghanistan, and he did not see his baby girl enter this world like most dads do, as so many in the military sacrifice family moments and milestones so our country can remain protected and free.

She was blessed to have both of their moms, her sisters and friends with her at the hospital, with one even holding a laptop while Josh was able to Skype in the delivery room… from the other side of the world.

Their second child had serious complications and was in the hospital for a long time, and his long-term condition is still being evaluated.

I hate that we live so far away from them, but much love is extended to this part of our family. If I can thank those in uniform that I see out in public, then I can dedicate one blog post to thank Josh and Alyssa for his service to our country, and for her love, sacrifice and support to him.

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This was the first time Josh was able to see his daughter, and these photos are so precious I cry every time I look at them.

This young, married couple has lived from California to Virginia, and I admire them for all they have endured…separated or together, they are two of the strongest people I know. Because she is the baby of the family, they probably do not hear that too often, as Lu Lu might have sometimes been called the princess of the family. ❤️😉

I watched them through social media build relationships with new friends in new cities, creating their little military family.

Then, I saw them have to comfort their friend, a young woman, probably Lu Lu’s age, who did not get a reunion with her husband. One of Josh’s best friends did not come home.

I wish every young person, including my own children, could experience just a week under some military branch of service. Maybe it should be required. A boot camp,  actual drills, and unedited footage of what really goes on with the strangers in uniform – who believe you are worth dying for.

I can assure you it is not a video game. Player one only has one life.

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Thank You, Lord, that Josh Cantrell was protected and came home to his family – our family.

I pray that your plans for their life, their children, his business and his ministry would have Your hand guiding him every step of the way. Help him to hear Your voice say, “This is the way, walk in it.” Fulfill Your purpose for his life that brings glory and honor to Your name.

Tomorrow, we ask for that indescribable peace that passes all understanding to cover those families who will place flowers, or flags, and tears at a gravestone of someone who did not have that chance.


Prayer To Saint Peter (Edwin McCain) – Performed by Clique Thomaston