I’ve lived in a small town since the age of three. As a teen, I couldn’t wait to move from my parents’ home and live the big city life. Now, at thirty-three, my heart desires nothing more than to raise my children with small town roots. One of the many things I love is the donut shop on Friday mornings in the fall. Packed with old men drinking coffee and young, high school football players proudly wearing their jerseys, the air is filled with the buzz of the upcoming game. The old men offer their wisdom regarding the night’s opponent while the young men politely answer, “yessir” – whether they agree or not. Little girls run around wearing their brother’s number on their tiny cheer uniform. There is an added spring in everyone’s step during football season, and the young players are heroes if not only for a few months.
This past Friday, I was reminded of one of the major reason my home will always be a small town. A young man was coming home and the community was banding together to give him the proper welcome he so deeply deserved. This was the second homecoming of its kind within the last few months and only one of many over the last few years. Unfortunately, the homecoming was a somber one. The young man was a fallen soldier who lost his life fighting in a war to protect our freedom. Local businesses closed their doors and school children were bused to stand on the route the young man would take on his final trip home. I stood silently next to the soldier’s fiancé. Her face was red, eyes swollen and her body trembled as she sobbed. A few moments passed, and we heard the rumble of the motorcade escorting the hero. Even the school children fell still and quiet. The young fiancé wiped her face and stood tall along with all of us as the hearse carrying her love passed us by. As the family’s car approached, I saw the face of the soldier’s father. He had lowered the window and was nodding his head to each individual bystander and mouthing the words, “Thank you.” I was deeply moved. I did not know this soldier personally, but I am forever connected to him and his family. Not only do many young men and women willingly give their lives for my freedom, but fathers and mothers give their sons and daughters as well. It seems small towns produce many of those citizens who so proudly love and serve their country. I am proud to be a part of a community who appreciates and supports such sacrifices.