We need to do more than just say, 'thank you'

To the editor:

Our three brave soldiers have been laid to rest, their stories covered, their funerals documented, and are now passed into the archives of history.

But, the story has not ended. Their shortened time on this earth has ended, and their service to our country has ended. But a lot more has ended as well. Marriages have ended that will long be a haunting element for these young wives and mothers. The first time they fill out another doctor's information sheet and have to check that box that says: Married, Single or Widowed, it is a stark reminder that their married status has ended.

When these children have a child-father event at school and at church, their little hearts will hurt because their father is not here, for he was off defending the life, liberty and freedom of all Americans, and paid with his life.

The financial burden of raising a total of six children in these families alone is only beginning. It was emotionally heart warming to see the processions alongside the road, with caring people waving their flags and honoring these fallen heroes. As good as it was, that is not enough.

These families are bruised, they are fragile, they are hurting, and for years to come, they will grieve. They will be faced with many new challenges and even hardships. What will we be doing? Enjoying the freedom that these men helped to provide. They will need spiritual support and encouragement. They will need financial support and guidance. They will need all the things that a father normally provides for his family.

It has got to where it makes me sick to hear people say, "I wish I could do something!" There once was a father killed in an accident, and he left behind a destitute family of many children. The community came to them with much love and compassion. Then one day, a man, shabbily dressed and dirty looking, knocked on their door and said, "Give me your shoes."

The mother said, "What are you talking about?" Possibly thinking he was deranged or trying to take advantage of her. She asked him why he wanted their shoes. He pulled a can of shoe polish out of his dirty coat pocket and said, "All I have here is this here can of shoe polish. I want to polish your shoes."

It is time Americans started polishing some shoes. If you are a merchant, a resident, an elected leader, a church group, or just a visitor to the area, you can polish at least one pair of shoes. Many things will happen to comfort these families in the next few, coming days, but there will be many more days and months to come, and in our hearts and minds, these men will be forgotten. Step up for these families, and by doing so, you will be stepping up for America as well. The motto of our soldiers is to never leave a buddy behind. Should we care any less for their families?

If you own a bakery, send them a certificate for a free cake; a pizza store owner, a free pizza; a beauty shop owner, a free beauty treatment. Give what you have: Free oil changes, free ice cream cones, free clothing items, free pairs of shoes, free tire rotations, free dental check-ups, free food. Remember, freedom isn't free, and these men paid the fee.

God loves a cheerful giver. And guess what, you cannot outgive God. What we have He has only allowed us to use it. It all belongs to Him. To whom much is given, much is required. What this family needs is not ten bowls of potato salad and fifteen cakes right now, but love, support and encouragement. Arrangements have been made with all three funeral homes to receive cards, letters and notes from the public, and they have promised to forward them to the families. This way, the families' privacy will be protected.

Families who lose the head of their household go through more than most can imagine. The day-to-day of settling affairs: changing over car titles, home mortgage loans, insurance claims, gas for the car just go get to all these places, can deplete incomes. And it is usually months before any annuities come in.

If you are a wealthy business man or woman, and you are enjoying the profits of the community, give these families tickets to Six Flags, or even Disney World. What a small price to pay for what the fathers of these children gave.

Sunday was Father's Day -- a sad day for all who have lost their fathers. But this year, why not make some kind of donation, in memory of your Dad, to these children.

Many of you are living nickel-to-nickel today, and giving is hard to do. But if you don't have an expensive card to send, write a note on a brown paper bag and send it. There is noting more touching than a humble sincerity. While some of us only have a can of shoe polish, others of us have much more.

Send cards to:

· The family of Jeffery Jordan, in care of: Henderson & Sons Funeral Home, 3002 Maple Road, Rome, Ga. 30161-66999. Jeffery was employed by the Floyd County Prison System. Home church: Pleasant Valley South Baptist Church.

· The family of Kevin Jenrette, in care of: Memorial Park Funeral Home, 2030 Memorial Park Road, Gainesville, Ga. 30504. Kevin was a fill-time officer in the Recruiting Sustainment Program. Home Church: Timberidge Baptist Church.

· The family of John Beale, in care of: Cannon-Cleveland Funeral Home, 2580 Highway 42-N, McDonough, Ga. 30253. John was employed by Clayton County Water Authority. Home Church: Eagles Landing First Baptist Church.

And please, remember that there are still thousands of solders out their in the field fighting for our nation. Let's us all find a military family and seek to be an encouragement to them. We are family -- first of all, God's family -- and then an American family. And we all have families. Someday, even a different way, the shoes that need polishing might be on our feet.

PATRICIA WALSTON

Examiner.com writer

Atlanta Faith and Family