This Memorial Day I will be going to Washington, D.C. with my daughter-in-law Gloria Quaintance and my two grandsons Caleb and Joshua.
My grandsons are home schooled and it will be a huge history lesson since we will travel with SFC. Harry Heater, retired, and his son SFC. Keith Heater, retired, and their family. I will report back about the D.C. celebrations for 2015.
The first time I met Harry Heater, a veteran of three wars, was when I was covering Living History Day in Narvon at the Zerbe Sisters Retirement Home for a feature story.
I invited my son Darren, his wife Gloria and my grandchildren Caleb and Josh to the event (these kids will remember me for all the places they visited so Mom Mom could write her stories.)
In the mansion’s great hall, Sgt. Heater bared his soul, it was the first time he had publicly shared his war journeys. Most vets clam up when you ask them about the war. They live their lives compartmentalized with those days tucked as tightly as possible into a space in their minds they try to keep locked. Many suffer from PTSD or shell shock; some adjust better than others.
His was a gripping and chilling story — and then he shared his poems. Not a dry eye in the room as the people were moved to silent reflection.
My son realized that he knew Harry’s grandson, a young man from his church who had recently entered the military. He and his family struck up a conversation with him.
My daughter-in-law Gloria wrote down his name and phone number and said she would call him — she wanted to hear more about his grandson. She put it into her Bible so she wouldn’t forget to pray for him.
Sunday morning came and they went to church. Gloria was teaching Sunday school when she opened her Bible and there it was waiting for her. Darren met with her to go upstairs into the sanctuary and she showed him the paper, “I’m am going to call him today.”
Then they realized The Holy Spirit was in charge. At the top of the stairs stood Harry. He had accepted their invitation to come and visit the church that his grandson attended.
Gloria, a quiet sweet woman, spoke to him after the worship service. Harry opened up his heart more deeply and wept over things that had happened to him. Harry shared with her how much he missed his wife who had died of cancer several years ago.
This pierced her heart. Her first husband had died of a rare cancer several years before she was to meet Darren. They each had a child from a previous marriage and then had two boys together rounding out the new family to four boys.... oh, and a fifth boy who was homeless and they took him in as well.
Joshua, their youngest child, was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 18 months, the very same rare cancer that had killed Gloria’s husband. Years of surgery, chemo, radiation and prayers spared him. He is now in survivorship.
Harry loaned the family the book of war poems he had written and his albums of photos. They invited him to come back the next week and join the family after church for lunch.
So they went to lunch the next Sunday. Josh and Caleb wanted to hear his stories and Harry was willing to share.
He told Darren privately that he carried guilt and horrific memories of kids killed during the Vietnam fighting, they were used as decoys. Sarge was a medic. He was there to save lives. Yet he questioned why did he survive when he held men that died in his arms? He was on the front lines saving as many lives as he could. Darren shared the Gospel with him and the Mercy of forgiveness.
Surely the Spirit of the Lord was in that place. Later Harry reached out to Joshua and gave him his dog tag; everyone knows what a soldier’s dog tags mean to him.
Joshua understood what a precious gift he had been given. His brother Caleb told him what a special gift and that he had to take very good care of that tag.
Joshua has beaten the cancer so far and it is rarely spoken about. He rides horses, dirt bikes, and plays baseball. This cowboy family lives life to the fullest.
I don’t know if Harry knew about Josh’s cancer. He had forgotten meeting me. I just know that angels were there that Sunday and The Holy Spirit stepped right in. An old soldier and a young boy are sealed for life.
I tell you this because God does walk right into your life and changes you forever.
The person who he uses as the instrument is also touched in a way that only God knows. I call that moment HOLY GROUND. It is a priceless gift that can never truly be verbalized, you understand when it happens to you.
Since then Harry has become close to the family and teaches the boys about the history of our nation and Josh has become like a sponge dressing in his fatigues, reading the Bill O’Reilly books Harry gives him and collecting everything Medic.
Harry shared Christmas and Easter with our family and now they call him Pop.
He and his son invited them to their annual Memorial Day trip to D.C. They will visit the monuments and meet other veterans, see the parade and hear the speeches.
I guess Harry will tell stories, laugh and weep once more with old friends at the WALL.
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