Each year, I write a story for the Memorial Day issue of the Wetzel Chronicle. For me this story and the one for Veterans Day are often the most difficult to find the words to honor those who serve our country.
Before I begin one of these stories, I take a few moments to look at the casualties reports from Afghanistan and Iraq. I find information that tells of the injured and killed. A simple number on a computer screen, but I see more than what the numbers tell us of American soldiers lost.
I look a little further at the names that make up those numbers and where their home was. Men and women who went into the service of our country for many different reasons have unfortunately become one of these numbers.
I am not sure why they each chose to serve, but they did and have now paid a terrible price no matter the reason.
Some served for patriotism, others it was a career choice, and for some it was a part time weekend job that became much more.
I become angry that our country’s news programs no longer see it as a major story when a soldier dies in some unnamed valley in a distant land. Perhaps it’s a story told so many times it is old news to them. No cameras for live shots to show on prime time news. But for every unreported news story, a family somewhere waits for an injured soldier to come home or even worse—a flag-draped coffin. Their tears and sorrow can not even be shared with those who in this country care because their loss is considered unnoticed by the news service.
I have decided this story is about those who have forgotten what sacrifice Americans have made since the first soldiers defended our country. Over time many have had differing opinions on why we fight and when we fight. And those debates are for politicians and those who sit in the comfort of their living rooms, because for those who have served in combat—whether a declared war or police action or some of the many unnamed battles in which soldiers died—the result is the same.
Men and women die and are injured when called upon to serve our country.
In the past most of the fighting was done by full time regular soldiers. Reserves and the Nation Guard were often held in reserve until needed for support. Today our volunteer forces serving overseas consist of service personnel from all branches of the military.
When serving in a war zone there is no discrimination between regular military, reservist, and Nation Guard when in combat. All serve and all can be injured or killed. Explosives and bullets do not pick and choose who they hit.
You may ask, ”Why is he making a point about regular military, reserves, and nation guard?” I make it because on occasion I hear some people complain about the benefits people have when called upon to serve in active duty. Their service has some protection for their jobs and benefits while serving our country.
A while back there was a comment made about someone who was serving and the benefits they had. The person felt it was unfair for some of the protections they had while serving in their military job. In this country they have a right to that opinion.
A few weeks later after our discussion I heard of a young soldier who was serving in Afghanistan who was not regular military and had been killed in action. His home was not far away from ours. He left behind a family, friends, and a job.
I wondered if at where he worked someone had similar feelings about the soldier and his job benefits before he was killed.
Not all people choose to serve their country and fortunately we live in a time where you have a choice. I and many others grew up in a time where your draft number meant you were going to serve, period.
Many including myself joined the military because no one would hire you if you did not have your military service behind you. And waiting for the draft could take time for your number to be called.
Today our military is all volunteer service. But, whether you are drafted or volunteer, the reality in the military is there is danger when you serve. Not all choose to serve our country and that is fine. But when you choose to criticize the benefits of someone who does serve, you do a disservice to them.
Memorial Day is about remembrance of those men and women who served our country. Many return to their homes and jobs and family when they complete their service. For others the long awaited homecoming will never happen and those are the ones we have chosen as a nation to honor on Memorial Day.
Patriotism and honor are part of the intangible reward for their military service. But, patriotism and honor is something we each can hold in our heart for our country and the men and women who serve.
This Memorial Day is about honor. Honor those who served, by remembering their service and sacrifices in your heart. If we all do that perhaps it will make their service away from home a little easier knowing we each care.
I hope you keep in your thoughts the American men and women away from home and their families this day as we look Thru the Lens.