We gathered yesterday in the 103 degree heat, and waited. Flags of all sizes in our hands, in the ground in front of us, did not wave in the breeze. There was no breeze. But they boldy proclaimed our love for America, for our freedom, and for a family who was facing the most difficult day we could imagine.
We searched the parking lot for a patch of shade, and waited. The only tree near us was surrounded by young and old. Cold water was something to be thankful for. We wished we'd remembered sunscreen. We chatted about our children, our loved ones, our connectedness with the armed forces, and soldiers serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.
And we waited.
Traffic passed. People honked and waved. Truckers gave short blasts on their big horns, and the little ones waved back thier thanks. Occasionally a passerby stopped to ask what was happening. We were solemn, respectful in our response.
Soon, word came that it was time, and we left our shade, and lined the road. Flags in hand, we stood quietly, and stared into the distance. Still waiting.
In the distance, we saw two police officers on motorcycles followed by about 20 bikers, the Patriot Guard Riders. We stood silently, holding our flags as the hearse, and the family cars drove by. A beautiful young woman leaned out of a window and shouted a tearful "Thank you." Tears streamed down my face.
Next came the soldiers, more family and friends, waving their own flags, shedding their own tears, and saying thank you. More Patriot Guard Riders followed and finally, two more police officers signaled the end of the procession.
For us, the waiting was over. We'd been proud, grateful, to stand in honor of PFC Jaron Holliday, our brother, our son, our soldier. But as we got into our air-conditioned cars and drove away, I couldn't help but think of Jaron's mother, his father, his brothers and sister and friends. They would be waiting much longer than we - to hear his voice, to see his face, to hold him again.
But their waiting will end. This is a promise. There is hope.
Until then, thank you doesn't seem quite enough to offer, but it's all I have to give.
Thank you PFC Jaron Holliday, for giving your life for my freedom.
Thank you Kelly and John Holliday, for raising a son who would take up the cause of freedom, and for paying the ultimate cost -- that you did not choose to pay, but were willing to risk.
Thank you Holliday family. My thoughts linger on you today, and my prayers will follow you in the coming weeks.