Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. – John 15:13
Memorial Day is a time to remember those who given up their lives to protect our country and our way of life.
I went into the service shortly after 9/11 and met many individuals who were in the service in order to protect those back home. One officer liked to humorously joke, “How are you enjoying that warm blanket of freedom I provide?” It was especially handy when his wife was cross with him for working late at what we did in the service.
I’ve been fortunate enough that there have not been any funerals for folks I’ve directly served with. But here are some folks I know of who will be on my mind this weekend.
- The young man whose leg was torn off at the hip in ship’s machinery and bled out at sea. One of my peers assisted the doc as this man’s life ended painfully like a scene from Blackhawk Down.
- The man who died of electrocution while trying to assist his team in repairing some high voltage equipment.
- The young man I mentored who’d been the sole survivor of his Humvee being blown up on three occasions. I think of him and so I think of his lost teams.
- The various classmates who have died in action since I was commissioned. They may not have been personal acquaintances, but we took on the same challenges at the same time. They were by my side at those times.
- The man buried in the base cemetery where I was commissioned, who had fought against the terrorists on Flight 93 on 9/11 and tasted victory while tasting death.
Beyond those are the many men still sacrificing on the front lines for our country. Memorial Day is a day for the fallen, but I can’t help think of various other sacrifices less than death made by men I met in the service.
- The man on my team at the front lines who was told that his wife’s twin pregnancy wasn’t going well and that the doctors weren’t sure they could save either baby or the wife. We took a mission detour to get him a rendezvous to get home ASAP, but I never heard if he made it in time or how it all turned out.
- The man working the optometry desk at my training command, who after volunteering for 5 tours in the combat zone was told that something must be wrong with him since he kept volunteering to go back, and so his career was ending. Why wouldn’t a man want to stay in the arena for which he’d been trained to be an expert able to carry great responsibility? Especially if he were a single man with no wife or kids?
- All the teams who are away from their loved ones for 6 to 9 months at a time, year in and year out. Even with all the best intentions, it is hard to be a father or husband in anything but title when being away for that long.
I’m sure there are many others, but these are at the top of my mind and are a few examples of the sacrifices I encountered during my time.
I lived the swell of national patriotism back in 2002. Things have been back to normal for some time. Even worse, I still recall an audio clip in 2009 of President Obama wondering why vets shouldn’t just pay for their own war wounds, since they knew what they were getting into and the risks involved when they volunteered. I tried to find that clip for our readers to consider today, but the top search results are only fact check sites explaining that an exaggerated email of the quotes was blatantly false. But they don’t want to talk about the original comments that shocked CNN and left the Democrats in congress in an uproar. How convenient, that the fact check sites can all defend Obama from an outrageous lie, while avoiding talking about the grain of truth that started the whole thing.
At least in the Redoubt, I meet many folks who genuinely appreciate veterans, even though there are many veterans in the area. Most places I served, folks had grown numb to encountering veterans, but not here. I still get an enthusiastic “Thank you for your service!” any time someone finds out.
America has forgotten the horrors of war. Even the textbook coverage of 9/11 has been scrubbed to say it was committed by “religious extremists.” What, like the ‘Extreme Tweens Bible Club’ at that corner Christian Church I used to drive past? Says right there on the sign that they are religious extremists, right?
My grandfather lived through the bombing of Britain, had to go down through the subways to get to his military duty station each day. Worst thing he saw there was because civilians were hiding in the subways in mass numbers, and one day a bomb slid down the stairs into the masses before exploding, and he had to walk through that hours later to serve his country. No cleanups, no candlelight vigils, because his homeland was getting the very civilian life bombed out of it on a daily basis.
Recently, I watched the movie Gods and Generals for the first time. I recognized many of the actual historic quotes due to my classes in military history. If you’ve seen it, think of the scene of General Lee looking over a field along a river bank and explaining that he was there to defend it because it was his homeland – he had proposed to his wife on that very section of riverbank.
Do any of you have that connection anymore to the land you live in? I’ve moved all over the country for school and for work and for military orders. I’ve only been able to love the founding idea of America – the culture which wrote the Constitution and all the other documents of that era. But progressives who hate that founding idea are working double time in the media and the universities and the halls of government to scrub every vestige of it from our collective memory. I can’t even find a quote from 2009 that I heard with my own ears, despite our modern digital internet. It has been whitewashed, just as they whiten the sepulchers for Utopia.
My hope is that despite all the places I lived since my childhood, here in the Redoubt I’ve found a place where I can build those ties to the land like General Lee spoke of. I hope that here, my children can grow up with those memories and won’t need to sever the ties to gain schooling and employment.
Most of all, I’m grateful to be surrounded this weekend by so many who genuinely appreciate the men and women who brave the horrors of war and sometimes even sacrifice all to allow us to live as we do and not like most of the rest of the world.
Happy Memorial Day