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My daughter carries a gun: Memorial Day tribute

My 13-year-old daughter walks rhythmically in front of me carrying a rifle over her right shoulder.

“What mom gets to do this with her kids?,” I think. I can hear my son from where I copy the steps my daughter taps out. He calls, “Left… left… left, your right, your left!”

Everyone follows in perfect step, each pause between these short words pregnant with purpose. If I crane my neck ever so slightly I can just spot my husband, flashing blue lights, white gloves, and right hand barely skimming his brow in salute to the veterans ahead of us. He is the picture of dedication; this man who serves his town as their police chief. My eyes tear up in pride and my heart swells. This is my family; the core of my being resides with these.

My gaze wanders back to the blond bun in my line of vision. It barely moves as the young lady my daughter is becoming matches her stride with three young men to her left. They also move with purpose, flags waving in the breeze and my daughter’s counterpart, the left rifle, corresponds in sync. We march, all eyes focused on the white uniform ahead of each of us, “your left, your right, left…left!”

I hear my son as if he’s a mile away, my feet stepping out his orders. I follow with the precision of a soldier, for that is what is expected. The road ahead bends ever so slightly to the right and a cemetery comes into view. Honor, courage and commitment are almost palpable on this humid May morning; the air is thick with patriotism and tears go unshed in the eyes of the multitude. My eyes also well up, yet I force myself to focus. We advance as a group; a hush comes over the already serious crowd. Only the rustling of fabric can be heard as we move over the manicured grass to our exact predetermined positions. We stand at parade rest as one unit, ears open in expectation.

The speech is not unlike the ones I have heard for many years: Reverence to God and country is due. Those who went before us, scratching out our freedom with their blood sweat and tears are to be duly appreciated and respected highly for their incredible sacrifice. But something in me has changed this year; I wear a white uniform. I do not feel worthy of such. I am almost uncomfortable in this place. I do not deserve to be in the company of such greatness; yet I stand counted among this noble collection of persons.

I am part of the Monadnock Squadron of United States Naval Sea Cadet Corps. My family has been extended to include this amazing group of teenagers in formation around me. They make up this organization that I am part of. This is the true meaning of belonging, I think. To be indentified as part of this group stirs the soul. It rocks a person to the core, to be a volunteer in shaping this next generation. It is humbling.

I watch all those around me without moving my head. The speaker finishes with a challenge to all. I take it to heart, all else pales in comparison to this moment. And still, my daughter stands in front of me, a rifle resting beside her and I am moved.

This is family. This is country. This is pride. This is love.

Becky A. Letourneau lives in Dublin.

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