Supper with a Hero
May 4, 2010
As an Army wife, you quickly learn that living in on post military housing is always an opportunity to learn. My 8-year-old neighbor and military child, Katherine Birdsong, was at our house admiring our Christmas Tree with our son, John Jr.
I was busy in the kitchen preparing supper when I heard her say, "and tonight we will be eating supper with a hero." I smiled as I thought about her dad, Lt. Col. Birdsong with Task Force Lightening, returning today along with the rest of his unit. Then I realized that due to a delay the soldiers would not be home til after midnight. What hero I thought to myself' I hadn't heard on the news or paper about any hero's coming to our post.
So I popped my head in the living room and asked her, "so I hear your eating with a hero tonight. Who is it'"
Katherine stood up with the twinkling of Christmas Tree lights behind her, clasped her hands together and then asked "Ms. Murray do you know Spec. Harris'" Before I could answer she looked down and said in a solemn voice, "he was a soldier with my dad. But he won't be coming home tonight. He died in Afghanistan."
Silence filled the air. Katherine said, "tonight after midnight my dad comes home and all the other soldiers come home but Spec. Harris isn't." I could feel the tears began to fill my eyes and the large lump in my throat.
"Spec. Harris's family is coming over to eat supper with our family," shew said. I replied, "so you're having supper with a hero's family but the hero won't be there." I said thinking she had just made a grammatical error.
Katherine shook her head again firmly and said with all earnest, "He will be there. We may not see him with our eyes but he will be there. Spec. Harris' mom, brother and little girl will be eating with us. They are all a part of him so you see he will be there." Sometimes, I thought to myself we don't realize the depth of children's wisdom.
I asked Katherine what her mother was preparing for supper. She smiled and said, "chicken soup." I thought this was odd choice to have for supper with company coming. Chicken soup'" I questioned. Katherine's mom, Lisa Birdsong, is known for her great dishes, but chicken soup' It seemed ,well, so plain. "Yes, chicken soup." Katherine noted the questioning look on my face.
"Ms Murray you know when you are sick and medicine doesn't make you better, and even your sister letting you play her games doesn't make you better' Well when I feel this way my mom makes chicken soup to make me feel better. Tonight Spec. Harris' family will be really sad when they see my daddy coming home and all the other soldiers. So my mom is making chicken soup to maybe make them feel not so sad." I smiled at this logic.
Then realizing the time Katherine said good bye to John Jr and me, off to eat supper with a hero I thought as I looked out my kitchen window.
Later that night I told my husband about the conversation that had taken place. John reminded me of part of the Soldier's Creed, "never leave a fallen comrade." How sometimes people think that it means turning around on a PT run to help a soldier catch up or not leaving a soldier on the battlefield. It is much more than that. It is never leaving that fallen comrades memory behind either.
(Ingrid Murray is the wife of Command Sgt. Maj. John L. Murray, Expeditionary Contracting Command, command sergeant major. Ingrid Murray wrote the above letter during the Month of the Military Child and was posted on Army Live, the official blog of the United States Army.)