Tomorrow is a hallowed day for Americans–a day for honoring the memory of our fallen brothers and sisters, those whose sacrifice cannot be measured.
For me, it is also a day of thanksgiving. While I remember those who lost their lives serving our country, I am also reminded that my family is blessed because my brother, a Marine, came home to us safely after two tours of duty.
Getting ready for deployment to Afghanistan – June 2011
My brother, BJ Isner – June 2011
Unfortunately, there are many American families living with the reality that their sons, husbands, and fathers won’t be coming home. Throughout the history of the United States, countless families have buried their loved ones, their heroes–our heroes–and others whose departed loved ones never made it home. We reserve the last Monday of May each year to commemorate their sacrifice and reflect upon those liberties many of us take for granted.
You see, for all the complaining we do here in America, I really believe we live in the greatest place on Earth. Our children have the opportunity to attend school regardless of their gender or creed. When I want to cook or get a drink or take a shower, I don’t have to think about where the water comes from or if it will be safe to drink. I don’t fall asleep at night to the sounds of gunfire and mortars, nor do I worry that my city will be home to a foreign occupation or that my house will be overtaken by rebels. I don’t fear for my children’s lives–or my own–and I am free to criticize my government without fear of retribution. I know that regardless of who assumes the office of United States President, there are certain rights guaranteed to me by the Constitution, no matter what some of those fear- and hate-mongering politicians would have us to believe. I am free to worship as I please, or I can refrain from worshiping.
In this country, my son has the right to live regardless of his Down syndrome diagnosis; in other parts of the world, children with disabilities do not fare so well–the Danish government, for example, has vowed to eradicate Down syndrome from their population by 2030, and that’s not because they have found a cure. Likewise, my daughter was not the target of elimination by virtue of her gender, nor was she shipped off to be raised by a family halfway around the world simply because she is female.
I’m not naive; I understand there are complex political and economic motivations behind every war. But I do believe the vast majority of those serving in the Armed Forces do so because they really believe in the ideals on which our nation was founded, on which she still stands today.
We are a generation desensitized to war. Many of us ignore it for the most part. But I can assure you that the families of servicemen and women do not ignore it. I can promise you that after burying their loved ones, those families that have been left behind do not ignore it, they can’t ignore it. But they can push aside political beliefs and ideologies, they can appreciate that regardless of one’s feelings about war, the members of our Armed Forces deserve our respect and support.
I have heard many people say they are sick of hearing that our military is overseas fighting for our freedom. They don’t buy it. And why should they? Most of us are so far removed from it that we can’t begin to wrap our heads around it. We were born free; we haven’t had to work for it. But we have a responsibility to remember this: these things are all wrapped up in unbelievable complexity. We may not know exactly what our military is doing overseas or at home, and we might not know why. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that these men and women–and their families–are making very real sacrifices so that you and I can continue going about our business, oblivious to where our water comes from. They do it so we can still fall asleep to the sound of crickets chirping, with threats of tyranny far from our minds. You can question the purpose of a war, but you cannot deny that our servicemen and women, along with their families, are giving the very best of themselves.
Take a moment this Memorial Day to think about the freedoms you have been afforded just because you were born in this great land. Be grateful. And say a prayer for the families carrying on without their loved ones. And while you’re at it, watch this.