By Teresa Martin
Writing a book has always been a “bucket list” item for me. When the pandemic hit, I was not sure what to do with myself, but I kept hearing TV stars say, “Sit back and write a book.” So I did just that. Six of them.
It all started when my friend, Rhonda Eaton, aka Daizy put up a Veterans Tree in her booth at Just Plain Country in Walnut Cove. She wanted to surprise me since I am a United States Navy Veteran. We left tags on the tree for fellow veterans to hand their “tag” along with a prayer board. Miss Kathy (Just Plain County Owner) posted our tree on social media and it created a buzz.
On November 7, 2020, Daizy lost a beloved Uncle, Arnold Lane. He was a veteran as well and it gave our tree even more meaning and purpose for us. The tree drew quite a bit of attention and people where driving from several hours away to place the names of loved ones on the tree.
Once Veterans Day passed, Daizy would change her booth for the holidays as usual, but there were still many people coming to see the tree that she decided she just could not take it down yet. That inspired me to write ‘A Soldiers Night Before Christmas’ right there where we sat. My purpose for writing it was as a gift for Daizy, my friend who has given me and other veterans so much support. I waited as she read it and when she finished, she handed it back to me and said, “Please go write the book.”
We left the tree up until after the New Year because it was so comforting too so many. With everything unsure in our pandemic world, it seemed to be a beacon of hope and encouragement.
Then, during February 2021, Daizy was hospitalized with covid. Her getting back home was nothing short of a miracle. We (the community) prayed her back to Belews Creek, where she lives. I had promised her I would finish the book, so I became a recluse as I endeavored to accomplish what I had promised her.
Some days, I would sit by the water and write. Other days, I would sit and listen to old hymns and just take it all in. I will never forget hearing, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” It touched my heart in such an inexplicable and profound way that I cannot even begin to convey all that I felt. And as I wrote, there were times I felt the words flowing out of me. I shared with Daizy that I do not know who needs this book, but I can feel that I am supposed to write it. Her response to me was, “You are, they will, and He does…zip it and be a vessel.”
As the whisperings of the activities in Afghanistan began, all I could think was…I remember where I was standing as a soldier on the first day of this war, and my nephew, a USAF service member, would be coming home on one of those final flights out.
As a USN Veteran, I am an old sailor with no regrets. I thought about the young men that are heading home. Many of these young men have seen things that they will never unsee. Will one of us be there to greet them? It is not possible for me to be present at every homecoming to show each and every soldier the respect they deserve for putting their lives up for mine. I can only think of one other man willing to do that.
It was with this mindset that I wrote, Sitting with a Soldier. The book is for them, filled with MY thoughts and appreciation. An individual, who to a degree understands the craziness they feel in their hearts. The fear that they do not belong here even though they are home. Sitting with a Soldier is a reminder to all who have, who are, and who will be service members that the job that they do is honorable and appreciated, but unfortunately can come with collateral damage, casualties, and fatalities. Lose not yourself, Soldier, I know a Man.
The Medals and Ribbons they will have upon their chests will each have meaning to them, and to me. I want to remind them about the medals within their hearts. The ones of love, courage, and strength. A reminder to use these badges in those hours they would find themselves alone. This life is temporary. God says there is no greater honor than for a man to lay his life down for his friend. May I be one who thanks you for being there.
Our soldiers returning home are coming back to a whole different way of life. They fought people in masks to come home and have to put one on. There will be some who do not understand, to those I want to give them hope in the same places that I had to stop and find hope. To hear people say we are bringing young men home from a war that did not really matter breaks my heart. I was a part of that war…for you. My nephew was a part of that war…for you. Please do not let history repeat itself and shame our soldiers in the street. Shake their hands, thank them for their service. They are why the boogeyman is not at your table tonight.