I’ve read about the experiences of those who’ve been in wars. I’m not one of them. I certainly can’t expect to understand it as those who’ve experienced it. I try to comprehend the mindless horror of imminent attack, the expectation of immediate death or dismemberment. I try to, knowing it’s not possible. Can we imagine what their mothers must have felt? What they are feeling today with their children so far away, far away in mortal danger, and unable to help—terrified while they’re at war, mortified for those who won’t return, horrified when they return severely damaged. I try but I can’t.
This Memorial Day I’m taking one hour for silent reflection to commemorate those who have sacrificed to protect my freedoms. I’ve not shown enough appreciation in the past, done nothing special enough to honor their sacrifice, nor have I performed their heroic deeds. I’ve certainly spent time complaining about things which haven’t gone my way, about seeming inequities in my life, the money I’ve needed, how things have broken at a most inconvenient time, about my sufferings in this land of the free and home of the brave. What have I truly sacrificed? What has my suffering been to those who have fought, died, and been dreadfully damaged defending me and my freedoms?
They’ve sacrificed for me so I can vote for the candidates of my choice without fearing for my life, so I may aspire to anything I deserve through effort and education, so I may have my weekends off to putter in my garage, stroll around my yard, and enjoy watching the neighborhood kids playing rambunctiously and joyously, in safety. I’ll never meet these forgotten heroes, never learn their personal stories, never even know their names. I’ll never be able to pay them back, but I know I owe them much. How will I honor them? I think the best way to honor our wartime defenders is to appreciate what I have, thank those who have provided it for me, and pay it forward in any way I might. This weekend, I’ll stop for a while and spend time to sincerely appreciate those who have provided me the freedom to do anything I want on this glorious Memorial Day. Then, I’ll make a plan to pay it forward. Won’t you join me?