Let me start this by saying today’s blog with have nothing whatsoever to do with writing, comedy or romance. If you came expecting such, I am sorry. In light of tomorrow being Memorial Day, I decided to take a departure from the usual me and talk about something other than myself. As someone who was raised with many fine men and women who proudly served this country, I thought I owed it to them to make this left turn from the norm.
When most people think Memorial Day, they drop their heads in honor of those who paid for our freedom to pretty much do whatever we want. Like I said above, I was raised knowing many of those proud men and women. The tragedy that most of those called to duty don’t come home didn’t really affect me. God was gracious enough to bring many of my family home. But, with age came a little wisdom. I realized that sometimes the cost of freedom isn’t simply lives lost, but lives changed forever.
My grandfather served during World War II. He was in the Navy, primarily in the Pacific. Most of what I know comes from my grandmother, because rarely did he talk about his time at war. I know he had been in Pearl Harbor right before that horrific attack that changed the course of America. I know he was injured during a battle and lay on the deck of his ship for hours until the fighting was over. He didn’t tell me that. I picked it up listening to my grandmother tell us stories. I don’t know the man he might have been if not for the war, but I know the man that came out of that horrible war. My grandfather was a quiet man, who loved family above all else. He thought it more important to relay life lessons than spend money to keep us happy. At the time, I would have rather had the cash, but now, as a man in his forties, I look back on those lessons and wished I’d listened harder. Still, I can only pray that I became half the man he hoped I’d be.
My dad and several uncles also served our country when called. They did so without a second thought. Some during wartime, some at the fringes of wars that would change how this country viewed war. Like my grandfather, they never talk about what happened, or what they saw or did. See, the pattern there.
As I grew from a teenager to a soon to be man in his twenties, war again loomed over our world. This time, instead of it being relatives talking about — or not talking about — war, it was my friends, and cousins. People I’d grown up with, laughed with, been stupid with. This time the impact affected me on a personal level because some of those people didn’t come back. Those that did weren’t the same people I’d known. The things that they’d done and seen had aged them beyond me in so many ways. I’d been in college at the time and could only watch the war unfold on the television screen, while my friends were fighting not only for freedoms we seldom think about, but bleeding on foreign sands and dying by inches to ensure we had the right to those freedoms. I will never understand what they endured, but I can say thank you for what they did for me. For those that didn’t come back, I will bow my head and pray that God granted them the mercy this world rarely allows.
I said this above, but it is so damned important, I’m going to say it one more time. Our freedom is not something automatically given to us. It isn’t some God given right. It is something bought and paid for with lives. Lives Lost. Lives changed. Either from post traumatic disorders, loss of limbs, lungs clogged with the stench of burning oil fields or gas released by people who thought they were more right than the rest of the world, our friends and family were changed forever from the people they should have been. They live with the horrors that only man can inflict on one another in ways we can never even attempt to comprehend.
So, as you sit in front of your grills tomorrow, enjoying your family and that stack of ribs, remember who bought you that time together. Because, they’re still buying it every single day.