My family is a military one – has been for generations. At one time, my grandfather (an inveterate veteran) declared, “If you’re from Texas and you’ve served your country, you’re an American, for sure!” He wasn’t from Texas, ‘nope, siree’ (as he would’ve said). But he did end up retiring in that great state. Sure he’d found God’s country, he adopted it.
For generations of our family, the terms “soldier” and “military” have never been equated with “anonymous.” It’s my shy and slender aunt who proudly sent back photos of her slight, feminine frame next to the towering military vehicles she drives. Inspired to join by stories of the patriotic WASPs, you can see how proud she is to be in charge of a vehicle so large a stepladder is required just to climb the huge tires to the driver’s seat. It’s Uncle Roy, who faithfully sent back his WWII paychecks to his orphaned siblings, who survived off his service. It’s our dear friend Dave, who is manning the local Buddy Poppy station in memory of all of our country’s fallen veterans this Memorial Day weekend, despite the physical and emotional scars he brought back from deployment.
Because it’s inherent in the very makeup of our genome, each culture has a tradition around the passing of life. Time is in the driver’s seat and Death is the passenger. So, the saying It’s not the destination so much as the journey has always rung true for me. We’re all travelers on a profound quest for experience and knowledge. And, while we don’t actively move ourselves toward that final destination, Death is one of only two shared primal commonalities – the other primal commonality being Life.
Life is the supremely awesome journey. To that serviceman and that servicewoman who has given life up so that others might continue with theirs – or begin it – our inexpressible gratitude. To those whose own lives were forcibly shunted toward that final destination, even if your name isn’t on a tribute to your service, you live through us. Without you, the rest of us around the globe, of different nationalities and creeds, those of us who hold faithfully to the concepts of free will and the freedom of self expression, we might have ended up living only the basest of lives – one of bodily survival – if it weren’t for you.
We worry about where nations’ elected leaders are steering us to. We worry that humans around the globe continue to be used as pawns for narrow-minded and selfish ends having so little to do, really, with self-defense. So, on this Memorial Day, may the rest of us, world-wide, remember our own most basic duty to fight as civilians against any government’s abuse of its most precious resource: our loved ones.