Monday, May 27, 2013
Freedom Is *Not* Free
This irritation began a couple weeks ago when I overheard a large home improvement company's commercial detailing their upcoming sales and insisting that Memorial Day was all about home improvement, summer kickoffs and family BBQs. I was annoyed enough to send an email reminding their corporate office what this holiday is truly about.
Ah but the ignorance is an epidemic in this country. Over the last week I have heard similar advertisements on the radio while driving and seen several "Happy Memorial Day" signs and banners. Then of course come the idiots who say those 3 words together in conversation with me personally.......
"Happy Memorial Day."
Really?? You have got to be kidding me. I "get it".....fortunately, not all of America has worn the uniform of this country or stood behind the brave soul who has. We......the military & their families......are the minority. That fact never escapes me and I'm not offended knowing we are a minority......honestly, the majority could not experience what we have on a personal level. Sending your spouse, child, sibling or parent off to fight in a war half-way around the world for months on end never knowing if they will return this time. Watching your loved one jerk in their sleep while calling out comrades names, or waking at the slightest sound, or watching CNN coverage scanning for friends names. Realizing that while your soldier came home from war, they have brought the war home with them and there is nothing you can do to help ease that burden.
Then of course there is an even smaller sub-group to our minority. Maybe you know one of us personally. Perhaps we are your neighbor or co-worker or fellow parent on the PTA. "We" are members of a club that no one ever wants to join.....we are the families left behind by the servicemen & women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for this country.
As I said earlier, I "get it"......you may not be able to relate so I try to be understanding and phrase it in a way that will make some sense. While every American may not have military experience.......we ALL have memorial experience. We have all loved and we have all lost. We have all attended a wake, memorial service or funeral. How inappropriate would it have been if during your mothers' funeral service, a well-wisher told you "congratulations"??? Or better yet, made their way to express their condolences and then immediately shared their home improvement and BBQ planning with you??? How offended would you be if you heard someone say "Happy 9/11"??? Makes a little more sense now, huh???
Here are some numbers I think every American should see on this sacred holiday each May:
Revolutionary War: Fought 1775-1783: 4,435 confirmed American deaths.
War of 1812: Fought 1812-1815: 2,260 confirmed American deaths.
Mexican War: Fought 1846-1848: 13,283 confirmed American deaths.
American Civil War: Fought 1861-1865: 498,332 confirmed American deaths.
Spanish-American War: Fought 1898: 2,446 confirmed American deaths.
World War I: Fought 1917-1918: 116,516 confirmed American deaths.
World War II: Fought 1941-1946: 405,399 confirmed American deaths.
Korean War: Fought 1950-1953: 36,574 confirmed American deaths.
Vietnam War: Fought 1964-1973: 58,209 confirmed American deaths.
Persian Gulf War: Fought 1990-1991: 382 confirmed American deaths.
Global War on Terror (OIF/OND/OEF): Fought 2001-present: 6,708 confirmed American deaths.
Those are ONLY the numbers from our major conflicts......not included are several thousand more brave servicemen killed in various operations or conflicts since our country's inception. Aside from the aforementioned well-known wars, we have lost thousands wearing our country's uniform in little-known conflicts such as: Quasi War, 1st & 2nd Barbary Wars, Various Indian Conflicts (Seminole, Blackhawk, Bannock, Modoc, Great Sioux, Ghost Dance, Sugar Point, etc), American occupations of other countries without a declaration of war (Haiti, Nicaragua, etc), Military action against pirates in 1800s, Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia 1993, and several more I am sure I've not mentioned here. We lost lives in every single one of these conflicts.
Add to those numbers the thousands who have died in training exercises, friendly-fire incidents, downed aircraft. Or the men & women of Ft. Hood, TX who were *at home* receiving medical care after an overseas deployment only to be shot by a coward hiding behind the same uniform.
What about the hundreds who remain listed officially as Missing in Action?? Or our tens of thousands of Wounded in Action?? Or the men and women who have come home physically whole but an emotional wreck?? The thousands of veterans who have lost their psychological battle and tragically taken their own lives?? Those who continue to struggle with the loss of their battle-buddies and suffer silently with survivor's guilt for the rest of their lives??
This holiday is about remembrance. And behind every man or woman who has worn the uniform of our country and supported our way of life, is a family serving silently behind them offering support and continuing with life back home. Our military is a volunteer service, so each man or woman who enlists or is commissioned has chosen this way of life.......for their families, we had no choice......we simply love our service member.
How helpless did you feel on Sept. 11th watching passenger jets flown into our occupied office buildings?? What about just last month, watching in horror as explosives ripped through the Boston Marathon on Patriot's Day?? As rare as these attacks on our own soil are, when they happen it is terrifying.......but understand that in many parts of the world violence, terror and oppression are the norm.......it is because of our brave military that these events happen far less frequently in America.
Enjoy your 3-day weekend, paint your house, have a BBQ, mend your fence......but please think for a moment about the men & women who gave their lives to afford you those opportunities. And before you say something as offensive as, "Happy Memorial Day" to others, remember that some of us are tied in a very personal way to the true meaning of this sacred day. There is nothing "happy" about a black sedan carrying military brass pulling up in front of a home to tell a woman her husband was killed in action. Nothing "happy" about parents burying their son or daughter. Nothing "happy" about hearing Taps and a 21 gun salute and watching as a flag is folded and handed to a little girl, on behalf of a grateful nation as she buries her daddy.......that flag will not walk her down the aisle at her wedding. A Purple Heart doesn't go a long way in consoling a grieving spouse. A Gold Star can't chase the "monsters" out from under a little boys bed.
To those who have served, are serving now and will serve in the future: Thank You.
"Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid; they have earned our undying gratitude, America will never forget their sacrifices."
---President Harry S. Truman