I have walked among the fallen at Arlington Cemetery and smaller national cemeteries as well as community, church, family and private cemeteries. Today a majority will have decorated the graves of those fallen in all the wars of this country or served in the military.
In the midst of parades, hot dogs, hamburgers other festive activities, remember freedom is not free, and the privilege to celebrate in any manner we choose, has been bought with the blood of the vigilants who volunteer to protect, even die, for our right to choose any way of life we choose. We are a unique country with a unique military mission: freedom.
Currently my husband (H) has one nephew who is a career Marine and has served two tours of duty in Iraq (I think.) He has another nephew who finished a tour of military duty and transitioned to highly secret protective services, mainly at embassies. H's brother also served in the Navy.
My brother served a tour of duty in the Navy. My half-brother served in the Seabees and was the victim of a friend with PTSS who had a flashback on a hunting trip--shot his comrades and himself. As I understand the story, my half-brother was the only survivor; he was shot in the back.
My mother's father fought in the Mexican War; and some ancestor, the Civil War.
My husband served in the Navy for over 2o years and retired. His record of service classifies him as being three theaters of war: Vietnam, Cold War, and Cuban Missile Crisis. The nearest to being in combat was the Cuban Missile Crisis where his ship was in sight of the Havana Harbor lights when President Kennedy cancelled the mission.
I was married to him nearly 10 years of his 20 years duty. Today I want to mention those who died in duty, but not necessarily in combat; fate chose a different path. I personally know one young man who died in a mundane vehicular accident in training with unique equipment of war. My husband tells stories of 'man overboard' and lost at sea, usually described accidental, but who knows.
Because my husband uses his Veteran Administration privileges, I often accompany him to Little Rock. My first visit was so profound, I found it hard to return, but have because what I witnessed, was done for my freedom and our country. It wasn't so much the maimed brave men who were dependent on others to help them move wheelchairs or gingerly walk with one or more prostheses that shocked me; it was the sight of YOUNG men so mentally damaged as to be plucking imaginary objects out of the air, or the stare in space, more often seen in elderly persons with various dementias.
Although alive, they will never know the full freedom I know. So be thankful for them, also, as they bravely face a different war within themselves. Many have lost more than limbs or mental capacities.
Often families are crushed from the burdens. I watched this stress first hand. Wives (now sometimes husbands) are responsible for everything. Her husband belongs to the Country first. She is in total charge of children and herself in every aspect from daily routines of school, health, moving from station to station, passports, etc. and there is always the fear of the military attache knock on the door. Then her husband returns and she has to assume a different role; that is a difficult transistion, often repeated when a husband (or wife) has multiple deployments.
We owe a debt we cannot pay to these fallen men and women. There is NOT enough THANK YOUs in our lifetime to them, and their families. In midst of our celebration (mine will be quiet day with husband, who even volunteered for Vietnam but not chosen) give thanks there are those who step up in a special way, despite the direst possible circumstances. There always has been, and hopefully always will be. Or we would not be Americans.