|MAY 29, 2011 --
Memorial Day is this coming Monday. It’s the day we stop to recognize the millions of military men and women across this nation who have sacrificed their very existence on earth so we can be free. Tragically, there are plenty of people out there that only relate Memorial Day with an extra day off from work and couldn’t really tell you what it is or what we’re celebrating. What I also find ironic is that the very people we’re honoring aren’t here to celebrate with us. They’ve given their lives so that we could be free to do what we want, when we want, where we want to do it, and with whomever we’d like to do it. We take that for granted. Most of us grew up under the blanket of freedom that those brave men and women have provided, never knowing anything different and never thinking about the alternative. If you’re out of milk, you simply get in your car and drive to a grocery store, you pay with the money you’ve earned at your job, and then walk back to your car and drive back to your home, probably located in a nice neighborhood surrounded by people just like you. But life isn’t so simple for everyone. There are people in parts of the world that don’t have a grocery store to walk to, and if they did, they’d have to present papers to the abusive government drones stationed outside their front door, praying to god that somebody doesn’t decide to give them a hard time; like Jews in WWII for example. If you think about it, that was less than 100 years ago, and there’s no reason it couldn’t happen again. As Americans, I firmly believe that we take that for granted, and don’t always give credit to the heroes who worked to establish and maintain that liberty.
I also believe that before 9/11, many people never even thought about our troops or their families and the tremendous sacrifice they make each and every day; and it is a sacrifice…a big one! I challenge you to sit and think for a moment what your life would be like if the person you loved most only got to come home for a month or so out of every year. The rest of the time they’re in some god-forsaken country, dodging bullets in triple digit weather, with 100 pounds of equipment strapped to their backs, all because two governments can’t get along. Sure they get paid, but trust me- nobody joins the military for the paycheck. They join because they realize that somebody has to volunteer. Somebody has to go. So they unselfishly enlist in our military, knowing full well what that entails. However, it’s not just the people that enlist who are making the sacrifice. The mother of 3 whose husband is across the world in Iraq has to do everything by herself. Get the kids up for school, get them dressed, drop them off, go work a full day herself, pick them up from school, settle their fights and disagreements, explain why daddy isn’t there, make dinner, put them to bed, get up the next morning and start all over again, all the while praying that her husband even gets the opportunity to walk through his front door again. Maybe he won’t. Maybe he will. I can’t imagine living with that kind of uncertainty. But she’s playing the most important role for our troops- she’s the light at the end of the tunnel. That brave man over in Iraq knows that he’s got something to stay alive for, he’s got somewhere to be when all the chaos is finally over and they get to go home. He’s got to have that hope, it’s essential to the spirit of each and every brave soul over there. And I’ll be very honest- it’s a sacrifice that I wasn’t willing to make. Most of us don’t make it. We let other people do it. But what if they didn’t do it; what if they refused to go? Our nation of free men and women could look like 1940’s Poland in no time at all. We shouldn’t take that for granted.
So this Memorial Day, while you’re sitting at your cousin’s barbecue, drinking Bud Light and watching a baseball game, think about why it is that you’re able to sit in that lawn chair doing nothing. I promise- there’s somebody on the other side of the world, wearing a United States uniform, who isn’t having such a great time. And most of all- they volunteered to be there.
Happy Holiday everyone.
National Grange Programs Assistant