Remembering those who gave all
I don’t know what it’s like to lose a loved one to a war. I don’t know what it’s like to be in the military. I do know what it’s like to be able to exercise the freedoms I have because brave people gave their life for me to be able to do so. And I know what it’s like to celebrate Memorial Day.
I was too young (or dumb) to understand.
When I was a teen the last place I would have voluntarily put myself is in the armed forces. That may have been for my Dad, but it wasn’t for me (Dad fought in the Korean war, I had several military uncles and cousins too). Sure, I liked war movies, and as a youngster played ‘army’ with friends and had a ‘Mr. Action’ action figure with his awesome jeep that broke the first day I rolled it down a set of concrete stairs (Mr. Action was a G.I. Joe knockoff. He was available via mail order for low monthly payments, but not nearly as cool as the actual G.I. Joe. And they never made a Mr. Action with Kung Fu grip, so I would never be as cool as my neighbor friends. Oh, the real-world problems of a 10-year-old). Bottom line, as I grew out of childhood into being a ‘young man’ I had no desire to be part of the military or following in my Dad’s footsteps.
I wanted to be an adult, but I dreaded my 18th birthday.
I cringed when I turned 18 years old and had to register with the selective service. I thought I was going to get drafted, and it scared me. I hated the thought of being a soldier and getting yelled at and told what to do, partly because I was too young and ignorant to understand military protocol, partly due to my youthful defiance. Oh, and there was the haircut thing, I hated getting my hair cut. But mostly, I hated the thought of being drafted because I was afraid to die. There I said it.
You can call me a coward, I suppose I was. I just didn’t get it.
Courage to serve others, it’s not all about me.
Looking back, though fear certainly was a factor, I’ve come to realize that it was my own selfishness that blinded me to the concept of service. People go into the armed forces to serve, not just because they are brave, but because they see the concept of serving as something greater than themselves (same with Police, Firefighters, and other Heroes). In my ‘starting to acquire wisdom’ older age, I understand. I hate that it took me so long to get it, but like other parts of my life, it took me a while to get there. And now, if I could go back and do it again knowing what I know now, I’d be the first one to enlist.
Let’s not forget why today is a holiday
Today is Memorial Day, a day we observe those who gave the greatest sacrifice for their country. We really never can thank them, not properly anyway, so we raise our glasses to the sky and spend the day with loved ones as we remember and give thanks to those who have given the ultimate sacrifice so that we can spend time with loved ones and enjoy the freedoms that we have as Americans.
Happy Memorial Day.