Last week, I began writing a Memorial Day blog. Back on Veterans' Day, I posted a blog and believe I said some really nice things, but while writing this one, I began to feel preachy. After all, I never served in the military, so while I understood the sacrifice that many soldiers made - that this country was born on the backs of dying soldiers and that our freedom has been preserved over the years by more and more brave men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice - I wondered what this all meant to somebody who has faithfully served this country.
I contacted a good friend of mine - a member of the United States Air Force who I have known for almost 27 years. He and his brothers all volunteered to keep us safe, so who better to write a guest blog? Though he wishes to remain anonymous, he was happy to write the following. My sincerest thanks to him, not only for writing this, but for working every day to keep us safe and to keep America the great country that we love!
First, let me say, “Thank you” to Mr. Braun for giving me the opportunity to share with you my thoughts on Memorial Day. To be honest, when growing up, Memorial Day was just another day to have a cookout with family. However, since I joined the military seventeen years ago next month, my view has changed.
I currently serve in the Air Force and have spent many months away from home defending our nation. Most recently, I have deployed to Southwest Asia to fly over Afghanistan to do my small part in aiding ground forces, both American and NATO’s ISAF, protecting the people of Afghanistan, and bringing some stability to that region. During those deployments, there have been times that I have heard the machine guns firing in the background as the ground controller calls in the airpower we bring to the fight. I know that my crew and I could do only so much and most of the time we were successful in pushing back the enemy. However, at other times, though we would race across the skies at near supersonic speeds, we knew that once we got on scene some of our fellow military members had fallen at the hand of our enemies. It might sound cliché but at that moment, there is no time to think what has happened, as there is a job at hand. Once things have calmed down and while we proceed to our next task it is always a little more solemn as I know we are all saying a little prayer for both the fallen and their families back home.
So what does Memorial Day mean to me? Well, I think it is a time for me to actually piece together all those little solemn moments and think back to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice not only over the past year, but also in the history of our country. Memorial Day is that day of remembrance that everyone should devote (at least a part of) to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. I am pretty sure that those who died for us thought and believed with their dying breath that what they were doing was the right thing to do to help keep the United States the nation we love. One must remember that no true military member wants war. However, they do realize that war is sometimes necessary, as the other instruments of national power cannot persuade our foes to desist, and they are willing to wage it in defense of the United States with the hopes that all of us come back safely.
So, in summary I would say, go and enjoy that barbeque and the beginning of the summer season, but first, if you will, take a couple hours to go to that parade in your hometown. (The dogs and burgers will still be there when you get back and the grill doesn’t take that long to preheat.) Better yet, to see the sacrifices that our brothers and sisters made on our behalf go visit one of the hundred of cemeteries that house our fallen. (Though there are many governmental agencies that are caretakers, the most prominent is the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Their National Cemetery Administration has over 100 National Cemeteries under its watch and you can find the one closest to you at http://www2.va.gov/directory/guide/division.asp?dnum=4 .)
And before you have the big meal, do me at least this small favor. Pray for the United States and all who have served or are serving today; pray for their families, who also serve by successfully carrying on for days, weeks, months and years spent without their loved ones; pray for the families who paid the ultimate price, who's loved ones died, are Missing in Action or were taken Prisoners of War; and pray for anyone who is still held captive and thinks perhaps they are forgotten.
Thanks again Mr. Braun.