My dad, mom, and sisters at dad's promotion ceremony in March.
My sister Melissa and husband Tim
It's ironic to me that we celebrate Memorial Day with a day off.
We're eatin' our hamburgers (in Texas they end up tasting a little extra salty as the wrath of God bores into us with the heat of hell and our sweat taints the taste of every good thing), drinking our lemonade, and enjoying a day by the pool as if this is a huge tribute to men and women, past and present, who have sacrificed for our country.
This Buds fer you Dad!
Tim, I'm sending a hot dog of remembrance your way! Erik, every memorial day shopping sale I take advantage of today is done so in your honor! Grandpa and Uncle Bill, thanks for Nam... cannonball!
It's like we're saying:
"Dear Military: Thank you for protecting our gift of freedom. We shall appreciate you by giving ourselves a day off! Congratulations us, we have just scored a four day weekend."
If it were up to me, my Aunt Lizzy, and Benjamin Franklin, everyone would be required to attend a memorial service today. Then we would all attend an American history lecture followed by a documentary on the beauty of freedom (I would then require everyone to feel grateful for freedom.) Then we'd all sing the Star Spangled Banner together with our hands over our hearts, tears in our eyes, and no funny business going on to the side. And finally, we'd end up babysitting for military wives so they could spend a day at the spa. Oh yeah... and the spa, of course, would be free.
In a perfect world.
Truth is, unless you have someone in your family who is in the military, today is probably just another Columbus Day.
I'm a little dorky when it comes to patriotism and the military.
I will always remember being in the eighth grade at the Texas State Fair and hearing the Army band begin to play the national anthem. In my little heart, time was standing still. But the people around me didn't even hear it. They didn't even stop. I was dumbfounded. What's wrong with these people? Aren't they American? Have they no respect? I was sure Benjamin Franklin was appalled and I secretly apologized to all military and true patriots, past in present, in my heart and got on the midway ride. I have prayed many prayers like that since then.
Dear George Washington and Franklin Roosevelt (and Teddy for that matter), OK, and General Norman Schwarzkopf and General Colin Powell, and Uncle Bill:
Forgive us for being ungrateful punks. And can I just say a special act of forgiveness on behalf of the people who can't sing the national anthem. I mean, what kindergarten did you people go to? We are sorry for all the times we have not voted, not sent letters to a soldier in Iraq, and not gone to a Memorial Day service. I am especially sorry that I did not give away my box of thin mint Girl Scout cookies this year to the kid collecting boxes for our troops. I'm still feeling really guilty about that one. And we really are sorry for all of our peers who can't sing the National Anthem... I mean that really gets me.
I grew up in a military family. My uncle Bill was a 'tunnel rat' in Vietnam. My grandpa served two stints over there and my mom says, after that, he never played the piano anymore. My dad is in the reserves serving as a chaplain. He was just promoted to Full Bird Colonel; he's been in my whole life. My uncles, on both sides of the family, all served active duty until they retired. One uncle was in charge of completely grounding all aircraft for a fourth of the country on 9/11... he's the tunnel rat uncle. Growing up, I had cousins living all over the world. Japan, Germany, Hawaii, and every place in between. Now, I have cousins in the military. And my sister married into the army; her husband just got deployment notices for April 2011. Afghanistan.
It will be his third deployment since he graduated from West Point seven years ago.
So I am not sure if the family history is what made me cry my eyes out when I first heard Lee Greenwood sing, "I'm Proud to Be an American" or what, but I was one choked up little fourth grade girl who couldn't understand why everyone at the laser light show on Stone Mountain that night wasn't bawling their eyes out. Were they not proud to be American? You'd think I was birthed on the steps of the Washington Monument the way my heart beats patriotism, but I wasn't. I was born in Albuquerque. That wasn't even a real state until 1912. I barely got in.
Ryan says I'm a dork about it all, but I can't help myself. I put my hand over my heart during the Star Spangled Banner and I sing with furry. I cry every time the end of the parade comes and Vets are all piled into the back of a flatbed waving their American flags. And, to this day, I thank men and women in uniform for their service- which Ryan says is really embarrassing- as only old people do this.
I admit. I am from a generation of people who don't quite get into "thanking men and women in uniform," but I am old school. I still think it deserves a thank you. And I still think it means a lot to a person in uniform.
I don't believe we are the best nation in the world; some last great hope for humanity.
I'm pretty sure there are positives and negatives to every nation (some far, far greater or worse than others). But I do believe our nation's story is uniquely built upon freedom. And even though the founding fathers were far from perfect in their attempts to implement this (slavery), and we have fallen short since then (Trail of Tears, child labor, women's suffrage, Arizona's new law [too soon?]) we are one of the few nations in all of history that has stood the test of time and progressively moved closer and closer to true freedom for all people.
That freedom- to write my own opinions in this blog, to choose a religion, a school, a job, a family, to choose peace or violence- my ability to be free comes down to the scores of men and women who decided a long time ago that individual freedom was worth defending and protecting.
And today I thank them.
Truly, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.
To those of you who take care of the kids, pay the bills, work two jobs, and have dreams at night about whether or not your husband is safe... thank you.
To those of you who have moved all over the world, learned new languages, and represented our country in the best possible way as you served in the military... thank you.
To the medics, like the one we met a few weekends ago at Sea World, who pick up the broken and care for them like they are your own kids, your own parents... thank you.
To the little boys and little girls who Skype with a parent, write them cards, and pray each day that your dad or mom comes back home safe and sound... thank you.
To all the families who have said good-bye to your husbands and wives, moms and dads, sons and daughters. For those of you who have mourned at the site of a folded flag. For those of you who carry the darkness and pain of war with you; you who long for the day when you will see your hero, when you will see your baby again... thank you.
To my brother-in-law Tim, who studied hard, got his doctorate, and wants to serve in the military until they kick him out... thank you. Your passion for public service is amazing. Your compassion for those you serve, whether American or Iraqi's, is beautiful. Your commitment to your calling is honorable.
To my sis, Melissa. God I want you home so bad it hurts. But you are such a strong like stinker and the way you love on the women at your base and the lifelong friends you are meeting is inspiring.
To all of you who serve: thank you.
In a perfect world, a twenty year old would not be given a gun and my cousin would never utter the words, "mom, they've turned us into a killing machine." In a perfect world there would be no threat of nuclear weapons (or nuclear stockpiles for that matter). Dialogue and compromise would cure all things. And civilians would never die because of a bomb gone wrong.
But our world is not perfect.
Until the day comes when peace reigns... I pray for peace. For the end of all wars and all violence.
But until that day comes... I am forever grateful for the men and women who choose to defend my safety, my freedom, my home.
So from one girl who still cries during the national anthem and thanks people in uniform...
for what it's worth...