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Memorial Day -- Honoring those we love who serve and die for our country

Too often we hear the negative about our fighting men and women. After having been in the military, having been a military spouse, and as the parent of two children serving our country, I know the strains service to one’s country can place on a relationship. 

We can be proud our loved ones are serving, and frightened, lonely, and discouraged as well.

Our soldiers are the people who run forward when the prudent would run back. Our instinct is to protect those we love except how can we shield them when they deliberately place themselves in harm’s way?

It is a challenge to love someone who hears a call to duty. It is also a great honor.

First, my disclaimer: I am a romance writer. I ponder the question, why do people fall in love? I’ve learned over the years the reasons are far more honorable than he or she looked good in a tight T-shirt.

You see, love brings out the best of us. It can be our noblest calling and whether it starts when someone catches our eye or catches our imagination, true love gives depth and meaning to life.

I was once approached to be part of an e-anthology where the given theme was “a soldier.” From there, I and my fellow authors Candis Terry and Lynne Hinton could go wherever our imaginations led us. 

Lynne and Candis took a contemporary tact. 

I chose a historical theme.  

It is interesting to read the finished book because the emotions in our tales are very much the same. The fears, the heartbreaks, the intensity of loving someone in the service to his or her country are timeless.

During my service years, I’ve learned there is absolutely no one in this world more organized, more ready to pitch in, more vested in our country’s mission than a military spouse, loved one or parent. They hear the call of duty just as clearly as the soldier does.

But while the warrior is fighting, those of us at home are worrying, and praying, and trying to hold together all of the every day details that make life special for when our loved one returns.

The editor suggested a title for the anthology, “Coming Home.” It didn’t sound right to me. To the outsider, coming home is everything.

However to the soldier, to those who volunteer to serve to our country, coming home is important, but so is doing the job right.

I suggested the title "FOR LOVE AND HONOR."

We ask a great deal of our military men and women. They could not accomplish half of what they do without the significant others in their lives. Their loved ones at home are serving their country just as faithfully as those on the front lines.

And when the warrior returns, they are the ones who pick up the pieces, who create a loving haven to start life again.

Every Memorial Day, we usually see the iconic Eisenstaedt photo of the sailor kissing the nurse on VJ Day 1945. He holds her as if he’ll never let her go. There is such joy in the photo. It is a reaffirmation of life and a promise for the future.

Every day we send soldiers home. They return to their communities, to their families, to people who will help them regain the momentum of their civilian lives. They return to those who love them.

This holiday, as we honor the sacrifice so many have made in service to our country, we must also include those who have stayed behind and waited, often impatiently, for their beloved warriors to return.

There is great love in honor, but there is perhaps even greater honor in loving well.

Cathy Maxwell is a former US Navy officer and New York Times best-selling author of over thirty Avon/HarperCollins romances. For more information on Maxwell and her books go to www.cathymaxwell.com.