No greater love

Published 10:08 am Saturday, May 28, 2016

I think for most of us there is that one type of video on the web that, no matter what we’re doing, we will stop dead in our tracks to watch if we come across one. For some people it’s videos of kittens or puppies. For others, perhaps it’s extreme sports and wipeout videos. And then there are those that, well, let’s just agree that there are all sorts of videos available online and leave alone it at that.

For me, the videos I can never turn away from are those of surprise military homecomings. You know the ones I’m talking about. The one where there’s a knock on the first-grade classroom door and a soldier walks in to surprise his little girl.

Or where a kid walks up to the plate in his little league game only to discover that the umpire is really his dad who’s been deployed on an aircraft carrier for nine months. The tears of joy and hugs that ensue are truly captivating.

These videos capture moments of raw, unfiltered emotion. The kids cry. The parents cry. I cry. Every single time.

I can only imagine what it feels like to be reunited with your child after an extended absence. I usually can’t stand being away from mine for more than a day or two at a time, let alone for months on end. The separation has to be awful. The reunion must defy description.

There are all sorts of these videos floating around on social media and the web right now, with Armed Forces Day having just been this past Saturday. And, again today, I found myself looking at a video that a friend had posted to his Facebook page. The squeals of joy and crushing hugs, as well as the lump in my throat and wet cheeks were expected. What occurred to me next was not.

On Monday, we will celebrate Memorial Day. It is a day that, by its very definition, is about anything but surprise reunions and unbridled joy. It is about families receiving word that there will only be one, final, flag-draped reunion. It is a day about parents and children and spouses learning that they have already shared their final hug with the ones they love most in the world. It is about heartbreak. It is about loss. It is about sacrifice.

As that last video closed, it occurred to me that the bravest patriots among us, the ones who most deserve a tear-soaked hug from a loved one upon return from the fields of battle, would never share in one of those moments. The ravages of war have forever stolen that moment, from both them and their families.

And in that moment of realization I cried some more, knowing that the freedom to speak my mind and to live in peace has come at a cost only the bravest among us have been willing to pay.

The 13th verse in the 15th chapter of the Book of John tells us that, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” In full recognition that mere words are not nearly enough, to those who have done so for us I say thank you.

TONY CLARK is the publisher of The Tidewater News. Contact him at 562-3187 or