America is in such turmoil these days. We fight about everything. We demean each other, we shout in protest, we sue each other, we shoot each other. We have become so hateful.
On this Memorial day weekend, when I think of all the soldiers and airman who have died fighting for our freedom and peace, I have to admit, I feel ashamed. My father and mother served in the Navy during WWII. My father-in-law was retired Air Force, and my husband is retired Air Force. Here’s a picture of the husband of a friend, coming home to his young girls after a long deployment. (I call it “Three Pairs of Boots.”)
Serving in the military comes with a price. It is not easy, and it’s not free. It is sacrificial, sometimes taking the ultimate toll. Spouses lose mates; children lose parents. We lose siblings and cousins and friends. This weekend, we remember those we’ve lost, even those we never knew: soldiers from the Civil war, the Revolutionary war. America has been fought for repeatedly.
I wonder what those who died fighting would say about America today. Would they believe it was worth it? Would they still fight today?
I pray they would. Because as unkind and unjust as Americans can be, it’s still our choice to create the life we want. We can choose to be cruel, and sometimes we do. But, we can also choose to be kind, and we’ve done that too. (No other country is more generous than America). Hard-one freedom sustains that choice for us.
So, it’s imperative that we remember those who have died trying to preserve our freedom to be kind – or cruel. My parents and husband understood that those in generations to come might take for granted the freedoms of this country. And they were right. So easily, we forget how good we have it. Most of the time, we feel we’re entitled to do what we want, when we want it, how we want it.
Having lived outside the U.S. for three years, I think it would benefit every citizen to live outside the U.S. for at least one year. Have a chance to miss the many comforts of home, the choices that America offers. It gives one a more balanced perspective on how blessed we are. It’s no wonder so many immigrants, refugees, wanderers, travelers want to come here. They see America’s value, often more than we do.
What we Americans forget is that our freedoms are not guaranteed to be ever-lasting. Every generation has to defend what we have here.
We don’t usually link the most significant choice we have – to love, or hate – to the long-ago or recent death of a soldier.
But, we should.
We can best honor all those who have died in service to America by simply choosing to be grateful, and kind.