Our War Fighters
At this time of family and fun and summer, I find myself thinking of those I have lost to war in one way or another over the past decade – some to battle, some to attacks by those who should have been allies, and some to PTSD. I've been blessed to get to know some amazing people, and some of them were in my life for all too short a time.
Warfare pulls people away in an unjust time and makes you analyze death differently. Death chooses those it takes seemingly at random. It doesn't choose the bad ones; it doesn't choose those with no family or with small children. Warfare chooses whom it will, for its own reasons, unannounced and unexpectedly. Then there you are, with a new hole in your heart that won't ever go away. And that hole is all the deeper because you know that your pain for your friend is nothing compared to the pain others feel from losing that person.
There's a part of you that accepts it. When the ones you are close to are war fighters, you know, and you expect, that at some point this pain will hit. It does the first time, and it hurts. But then you think, Oh, I'll deal with this again, and it won't be as bad. But it is. It doesn't get easier. It might not surprise you quite as much as the first time, but it hurts. So you just try to move on and accept that this is the life you have, these are the people you know and care about, and your life is better for having known them. And it is, and the game of Russian roulette continues. You never know when the chamber is loaded.
At that point, all you can do is keep your friends in your heart, keep their memory alive with others that loved them, and tell people who don't know about how much these sacrifices mean. I don't like going on and on about things that hurt so deeply, but on this Memorial Day, I feel the need to get past my discomfort and tell others.
The people I have known, loved, and lost were all amazing, young, vibrant, and intelligent men. I was blessed for having known them. They were doing what they chose to do, and ultimately it took them from us. I know it's a cliché to say it, but those men were there to protect us. No matter how they felt about the conflicts we've been in over the last decade (and we all have our opinions for sure), the fact is, those men volunteered because they were the front line. They signed up because in their hearts, if someone came onto American soil and attacked us, they wanted to be the people going into the fire to make a difference, not the people turning away and hoping for the best. And that fact deserves recognition. The fact that these men went into battles and dangerous places, often with murky directives and reasons from others, shows how dedicated they were.
Veterans and military are just people. They aren't perfect. There are plenty of ugly stories, just like with all groups of people. But when you get down to it, in a day with a volunteer force, it takes commitment, and it takes bravery, to put your name on the dotted line. No one held a gun to their heads to do it; it wasn't mandatory.
Enjoy your weekend, enjoy your family, and enjoy your security. You may not have lost someone, but so many others have. Please, for their sake, be respectful, think of those who have gone before, and throw down a drink for those who have gone to Valhalla.
And to those of you out there still fighting the good fight, stay strong. You are appreciated, you are not alone, and those of us who care about you are here any time. Thank you for doing what you do. Don't forget what Patton said: "No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country."