Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Dear Military - Thank You

Welcome to Service – The Action Form of Love

I’ve been absent for a few weeks, taking some time to be with family, taking a vacation and generally recharging my batteries.

This evening, my wife and I stayed home and watched one of a set of DVDs called “Vietnam Combat”. It’s a documentary with several segments about the men and women who, whether by choice or by draft, served our country in the Vietnam War.

The segment we watched tonight finished with some of the helicopter pilots telling what it was like to come home from war. Most of them talked about having similar experiences coming home. One veteran said that he was very proud of what he did in Vietnam but he couldn’t carry that pride home. All of the veterans interviewed echoed that same feeling.

As I watched, I realized that I could almost predict the words and phrases these men used when talking about coming home from the war. I could do this because I have an older brother who also served in Vietnam. He had the same experiences when he returned home, too. He was confronted with the same slurs, the same insults as these men were.

He was spat upon, called horrible names and subjected to indignities unfit for any veteran of any war, regardless of the justness of the cause. He could not wear his military uniform in public. He couldn’t talk about the war.

He couldn’t show his pride for having done what his country asked him to do.

Watching the end of the documentary brought back a lot of memories of long talks with my older brother. Those talks have been few and far between, and understandably so. How could I, who was just a toddler when he went off to war, possibly relate to what it must feel like to have to face death every single day? How could I possibly comprehend what it was like to know that in order to come home alive, you must be willing to kill someone else? How could I possibly understand war when all I’ve ever known in my life is peace?

To those things, I can’t relate.

But, there are things I do understand.

There are things I can relate to.

I can relate to love for my country.

I can understand heeding the call of my country when called upon to serve.

I can comprehend the idea that a soldier serving his country did not start the war he was sent to fight.

The Vietnam War is something now taught in American History class. There are, however, other wars that are current events.

We have men and women now serving our country in Iraq, Afghanistan. They are our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and children. We know them as neighbors, coworkers and acquaintances. We hear about their deaths now on the back pages of the newspapers because there have been so many killed. We rarely hear about those with traumatic physical, psychological or mental injuries. And, unless we’re related to one of them, the only time some of us stop to think about them is when we hear about yet another deployment from our community.

They’ve answered the call of duty, every one of them a volunteer. Unlike previous wars, not one of the men or women currently serving in a United States military uniform has been drafted. They serve and protect for many reasons, but they know they’re fighting in an unpopular war. They know many of the American people have lost faith in the reason we’re at war.

And yet they serve.

With honor.

With distinction.

With pride.

I’m sure by now you’re wondering if I’m ever going to get around to today’s service challenge.

Here it is:

Today, if you see someone in a military uniform, thank them for serving.

Regardless of your opinion of the wars we’re fighting, please remember, they didn’t start it. Remember that in addition to fighting in Iraq, in Afghanistan or wherever else they may be deployed, they serve to protect you and your freedom to disagree with governmental policy.

Remember that they fight so that you and I can sit in our local Starbucks, sipping our morning beverage and leisurely read blog posts by authors who think they have the world’s problems all figured out.

Remember that they are human – a fellow brother or sister who misses the comforts of home when they’re deployed. Remember they have feelings and family and…

Well, just remember that when it comes right down to it, the person you see in that uniform would lay down their life to protect you, your family and your freedom.

Don’t you think that merits a quick “thank you”?

I do.

Thank you for reading today’s blog post.

Thank you for being willing to share it with others.

And most especially, thank you for remembering that Service is The Action Form of Love.


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