It’s a typical Monday morning. I drag myself out of bed . . . I drag myself into the shower . . . I drag myself (and a sleepy little dog) downstairs to let her out, cursing the cold and the morning the whole way. I drag myself through breakfast, and then drag myself through packing my lunch. I then pour myself a cup of coffee and—you guessed it—drag myself back into my bedroom where my husband’s waking up and I prepare to get ready for the day. A sleepy face stares back at me in the mirror, and I’m still cursing the fact that I’ve got to get up and get ready and go to work. The little girl inside of me is pitching a hissy fit because the weekend’s over: “I don’t wannnnnaaaa” the voice says. Somewhere in the background the news is on. There are bands playing in honor of Veteran’s Day. “Oh yeah . . . “ I think to myself . . . “I need to text my brother!” (an Iraq veteran) It’s at that point that I start to come out of my Monday morning stupor, and my eyes begin to focus as I turn to the TV screen and watch the host interviewing an official from the New York Fire Department about how they’re raising money to purchase specially made, tank-like wheelchairs for our wounded warriors. There in front of me sat a young man—he couldn’t have been more than 30, maybe 35. It was obvious that he couldn’t walk as he sat next to the hosts in his special wheelchair, known as an “Action Track Chair.”
The guy looks uncomfortable in the interview and I know exactly why. He’s disabled as a result of his service to our country (and thus completely deserving of the praise) but he’s thinking about the guys that didn’t make it back, and he’s probably feeling guilty about his 15 minutes of fame. It’s a common burden all veterans bear. “Why did I make it back . . . and ________ didn’t?”
Now I was awake.
I do this quite often. How very often am I guilty of this same neglect. I, along with (I suspect) many of you out there, tend to let myself get bogged down by the really unimportant things in life (what—sobbing about a messy house and pile of still-to-be unpacked boxes isn’t normal?) while simultaneously letting perspective quietly fade away. Today, I was staring at a man who volunteered to lay down his life if need be, so that I could be free. My thoughts understandably turned to my brother, who blessedly came back with all of his limbs but aches internally . . . both physically and mentally. His bones have borne the weight of freedom’s guardianship; his mind has borne the horrors most of us wouldn’t even go to a theater to see. His young body bears the scars of an old man. And I’m sitting there complaining about having to wake up in my warm safe home, get in my warm, safe car, and drive to my warm, safe job. Heavens.
We’re told in the book of John, chapter 15 verse 13, that “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” At the risk of cheapening the real meaning of this verse, allow me to make a comparison nonetheless. Our brave men and women in uniform may not have the ability to save our souls with their sacrifices, but with their blood they buy our earthly freedom and safety. Can you name someone, outside of perhaps your closest family and friends, who would volunteer to lay down their life, for YOU? So that YOU can sit home on a Monday and freely complain about having to go to work?
It’s Veteran’s Day—not Memorial Day (I, unlike our President can recall the difference) but today we do indeed honor all those who fought, whether they made it back or not. The ones who made it back—the veterans we honor here today—are the living, breathing representatives for those who breathed their last on a foreign field or an endless desert. They knew that it could have just as easily been their ultimate sacrifice. . . for they all signed up with the same deafening reality in mind: We won’t all make it back.
Today, we honor not only those whom our returning warriors represent, but we honor THEIR service . . . their sweat, tears, and blood that they so freely gave US. They may have made it back, but many left a piece of themselves behind on the battlefield. An arm . . . a leg . . . an eye . . . their sanity. For us, our world’s wars are often but another page in a textbook; another lesson our school children will memorize.
For those who fought them, the wars will never be over.
Whether it’s the Kamikaze pilots aiming themselves at Battleship Row on December 7th, 1941, or hijackers taking over a commercial plane to use as a human-laced bomb on 9/11, history’s pages are stained with the blood of those who hate freedom.
More importantly, however, they are also stained with the blood of those who love, treasure, and protect it.
Today, we honor the few who stand on the wall, steadfastly guaranteeing the preservation of so great a gift.
We salute you.