Posts Tagged ‘sacrifice’

I have never been comfortable saying Happy Veterans Day, “Thank you for your service” has always seemed a more appropriate sentiment.  I do recognize and appreciate the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day; one memoralizes our loss, the other acknowledges our service.  This service and the sacrifices that come along with it are why I have never been comfortable giving thanks on this day.

I understand the sentiment and take no offense at receiving it.  This is especially true when it comes from those who have not served.  It is indeed the sentiment and the appreciation that counts, and, I at least, accept it for what it is.

All of us are taught right from the beginning about Duty, Honor, Sacrifice, Service and all those other terms the Drill Sergeants begin to verbally assault us with in Basic.  Indeed, that is what Basic is all about; stripping us down, peeling away the individuality and bad habits, and then building us back up into trained individuals functioning together as a part of a team, which in turn is part of some bigger and greater than itself.

We all have our own reasons for putting ourselves through the suck and volunteering for service.  Some of us are legacies, like LT Dan of Forrest Gump fame, members of our families have given it their all in every war our country has ever fought in. I myself, had both of my grandfathers serve, my father, both uncles on my mom’s side, a bunch of cousins as well.  I did not serve, initially anyway, because of this legacy, I did it for reasons strictly personal and selfish.  I went in with eyes wide open, looking to give my all, but that was more to do with paying my way for the benefits available, rather than a sense of blind patriotism or valor.

As I grew into what would turn in to a career, a lot of that changed.  I learned what it meant to belong, to be a part of something greater than myself.  I was fortunate that I had awesome mentors and leaders right from the beginning who helped put a slacker onto the path that would lead me to working at the very tip of the spear with people who would give the Spartans someone to fear and emulate. I was able to work with professionals, doing work that prior, I had only read about or watched on dramatized T.V.  I was privileged to befriend people, some of whom would pay the ultimate sacrifice, people who understood brotherhood and sacrifice.  Men and women who never think of themselves as brave, but continue to master the basics in order to prevail over the obstacles placed in front of them.

It is because of people like these that I have never been comfortable wishing a veteran a “Happy” day.  I do not judge or cast aspersions on anyone who does though.  It is a great honor to live in a country which recognizes us with our own special day.  For many though it is not a happy day.  Many who have seen the most extreme of horrors which war can produce are thankful to still be here, but suffer the guilt of doing so.  Gunshots are deliberate but the bullets are indiscriminate.  Why did I survive when the person next to me did not? How did I make it out of a blast zone unscathed when those around me were maimed or killed?  Was it all worth it in the end?

I will not speak for all Veterans, just for myself.  Today is our day, and I truly appreciate the recognition.  Along with the pride that comes with that recognition is a healthy measure of solemnity and a little bit of guilt.  I grew up in an era of war in which there are no lines of opposition.  The enemy is ruthless and we no longer fight to conquer and vanquish them.  We lose our friends in actions in which the objective is to preserve life but not to destroy the enemy who is creating those circumstances.  American Service Members do in other nations what those nations cannot or will not do for their own people.  That is our calling, our service. and we bear the burdens of this profession for the remainder of our lives.  I thank you for the recognition of my service, especially this solemn day.  To my Brothers and Sisters, past, present and future, Thank You for your Service and Sacrifice.

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Gold Star

This is my last Memorial Day in uniform.  Next year after 21 years of service I will be a Mister again.  I wonder how that will feel when it comes around next year.  We will still celebrate my daughter’s birthday as it always falls right around the Memorial Day Weekend.  I am pretty sure that I will take a little time to reflect on those I know who have paid the ultimate sacrifice and the families they have left behind.  Hopefully by then I will have found some other former members of the military who are familiar with the pride of having served our nation.

During your celebrations this weekend remember that there are Gold Star families who are not celebrating, but are instead memorializing  the loss of a loved one.  There is no shame in having a BBQ for your friends and families and celebrating this great nation of ours, just remember that this day was paid for with sacrifice and is much more costly than the beer and hot dogs we grill up.

Every nation I have ever been to honors their military at some point during the year.  Usually, these celebrations are just that, celebrations.  The revolve around some victory or other, usually a grand victory and as the victors history is usually written to glorify the the sacrifices of vastly out-numbered force of patriots and their stunning victory over the aggressor.  Our country however, is the only one I have ever known to simply recognize the sacrifices of those who have served and given the last full measure.

Each year on Memorial Day we honor the Fallen, and their families.  Names are read at countless services and memorial locations across the country.  Flags are posted at each and every veteran grave site across the US.  We are among the few nations on the planet that actually have veteran’s cemeteries.  I have friends throughout the country, interred at these cemeteries or laid to rest with markers denoting their service at regular cemeteries.  At the peek of any war, we have never exceeded greater than 7% of the population on active duty, but the lands of our nation are fertile with the resting places of our service members.  There are few places you can go that do not have some type of memorial to the fallen for a given area.

At some point today, 12:01 PM is the generally accepted time, take a moment to think about the sacrifices of service members and their families have made.  Even if you do not know someone directly, very few gatherings are completely without someone who has known the loss.

Whether you agree with the reasons behind the loss or not, put them aside and recognize that each drop of blood given, each soul moved on to the other side, each tear cried by a child who has lost their hero, has insured that you have the freedom to feel that way.  It is not up to us to agree or disagree with the circumstances leading to their sacrifice, it is our responsibility to appreciate what has been given to us, make things better than they were before and carry the burden of making sure their sacrifices were not in vain.

During your celebrations today place a glass of their favorite beverage out for someone you have lost and let the others know who are in attendance who it is for and what it represents.  If you or your guests have not been directly affected by loss, look up a name of someone local to you who has paid the price.  Do the same, label the seat and the drink and allow no one to sit in it or drink from it.

Honor the Fallen whether you knew them or not, they paid the price for each of us without knowing who we are.

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On Behalf of a Grateful Nation

 

Over 20 years ago I raised my hand to volunteer for service to my country.  Sometime in the next 12 months I will come to the end of that service, again voluntarily.  For most of my natural life we have had an all volunteer service.  While there have been drafts and conscription during our short history as a nation, we have never had compulsory service obligations for young adults like many nations throughout the world do.  When I raised my right hand and swore my oath, I did not do so out of some misguided, selfless act of patriotism, I did so to finally grow up and make something out of myself.  When I raised my hand that time and all the subsequent times required to re-enlist, I did do so with the full intent of fulfilling my obligations that I signed up for.

Over the last 2 decades I have done so over and over again, often at the sacrifice of the things most precious to me.  I have volunteered for and accomplished the hard jobs, the shitty ones, the ones that an even smaller percentage of military populace, which is just a fraction of our national populace, agree to do.  I and a small community of like minded people have served at the whims of our leadership, sacrificing our lives, our health, our sanity and our families.  We have willingly gone into harms way to preserve the right of stupid people to continue sending us and even more stupid people can continue to vote them into office.

We do these things for a variety of reasons.  Whatever our individual reasons may be, we did so in that we would receive certain things at the end of our service.  It does not matter how long we serve to receive these promises, provided we have done so honorably and fulfilled our oaths to the best of our abilities.

Most people do not realize the amount of contributions made by the military during peace time, nor do they realize the exponential increase in contributions forged in blood.  The medical and emergency services alone have witnessed a boom in lifesaving techniques, equipment and training changes.  Law enforcement has benefited from changes in our techniques and procedures proven through our mistakes while executing operations where the enemy masquerades as civilians and the civilians end up bearing the brunt of violent outcome.  Business has benefited from the leadership and innovation from talented members of our force who have now joined their ranks.

The communications industry has been the recipient of millions, if not billions of dollars.  We have literally moved from simple phone and text to 4G LTE over the course of a decade and the ability to use that capability globally.  I can live tweet a firefight from anywhere on the globe should I choose to put aside regulation and risk my security clearance.  Do you really think these changes are made without the investment of military dollars?

No country in the history of the world has ever maintained its ability to protect its strategic interests, nor not fallen into civil unrest when it has become accepted policy to forsake promises it made to its veterans.  Rome was on a downward slide already, but it was hastened when it stopped honoring its veterans and it promises to them.  They were a world might until they over-extended themselves and began to remove pension and benefits from those who had made her so.  It has been so for every “state” throughout history.  We truly are a Romanesque nation, however we have no where near the time on the clock which Rome did from rise to fall.

We have been forsaken.  Our elected officials have expanded their power, power guaranteed by the blood of warriors, in order to turn a position of service into a career of power and hubris.  It is not just the politicians who have forsaken us, it is those whose rights we have also guaranteed in blood and sacrifice to continue to feed the ineptness of leadership based on false promises and the hope they will get something without actually having to do anything for it.  There is not simply a partisan divide at the hands of political parties and ideology, there is a nation of apathy, ignorance and entitlement to provide a foundation for the parties to continue to build upon.

I have performed my duties faithfully with no expectation than of that which I was promised.  I have spent almost as much time missing my family as I have actually spent with them.  I miss the brothers I have lost.  I will miss the excitement and fear of the unknown.  I have my demons that I keep locked up tight.  All this because I have served the nation, just as my brothers and sisters are currently doing.  All we ask is for what we were promised when we are promised to receive it.  We are not unfamiliar with sacrifice for the greater good, in fact we are intimately familiar with it.  If we must sacrifice after we have served, we have earned the right to be heard in how we are to make that sacrifice.  It should not be done so as part of political solidarity without sacrifice to all, ALL members of the nation, and should be done so as to be readily measurable and tangibly effective to the benefit of all, not simply the reputation of those who author it.

 

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Today we remember those who came before us, who laid down their lives, suffered at the hands of our enemies, became permanently scarred, physically and psychologically, and lived the history of our nation.  Brave men and women have given their all in pursuit of the freedoms we hold dear, or, choose to take for granted; for that is our right as Americans, to choose.  For that we have our veterans to thank.

It is your choice, your freedom, you inalienable right to be an American as you see fit.  That choice is granted by the sacrifice in blood, pain, tears, and loss of those who run to the sounds of battle while others choose to stay away.  We serve at your leisure but that leisure is only available through the actions of others.  Freedom does not live in a vacuum; each and every day someone pays the cost for it and it is with their dying breath that millions more get to live the life they choose.

Veterans do so with a clarity of vision for vaguely defined strategic objectives.  Decisions are made and acted upon that have impacts far beyond the battlefield in which they are enacted.  Heroes come at unexpected times, immortalized at the moment of their action.  Most often they are eulogized and memorialized.

Today we remember.  Those of us who have known the loss first hand remember our comrades at arms who have paid the ultimate price.  Today is the most somber of veterans remembrance days during the year.  When it was Armistice Day, it was intended to be.  It is not a day of celebrating, it is a day of remembrance and reflection.  It is a day to wear the buddy poppy in remembrance of someone you knew who served or in recognition of a nameless individual who sacrificed their all so that you can have what you do.

I am rapidly closing in on 20 years of service.  It has not always been easy, fun, or even at times, something I wanted to do.  My family has paid as much of a price if not more so than I.  As I close out my time I hope that I have enough for them.  I admire the respect they show during the National Anthem, memorial services, and to other veterans and their families and I know, deep in my heart that this is what I have served for all these years.  The personal challenges and sacrifices are great obstacles to overcome and achievements to acknowledge for my own self-interests, but it is seeing the pride my my children’s eyes when they speak of what I do and it is in having the most loving, supporting Army wife possible.

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month has passed.  Gone is the Day.  If not the person, remember the sacrifice.

So I am going to forgo the fact that our powdered wig wearing Forefathers would have been appalled that there are citizens of this great nation who can waste their money on an I-phone while forgoing the basic necessities in life like, decent housing, food for their children or the ability to pay their other bills in lieu of the ability to remain connected 24/7/365.  Let us also put aside the fact that the 1st Continental Congress and the representative leadership of the country prior to succession of hostilities and the surrender of General Cornwallis wrote most of their wise words anonymously and under pseudonym and would have definitely balked at posting their picture as an avatar in order to be taken seriously, not to mention having to check in with their location and tagging all their rebellious friends in a group photo.

Way back in the good old days of our country we did not have the instant connectivity that has invaded our lives today.  Back when the Declaration of Independence was finally signed, official copies of it were sent out by dispatch and read aloud to the gathered crowds in town squares all across the land.  Each and every person present was read the exact same thing as all the others across the 13 states.  Retweeting was accomplished by the local printer and handed out via hard copy to those who could read.  Imagine how much simpler it would have been to accomplish a revolution using some collaborative tools, whipping up a power point of key facts,  cutting and pasting it all into a nice neatly formatted document (Olde English font of course for authenticity) and publishing it up to www. yeolderevolution.gov (pretty sure I just made this up, but truth in lending I did not check).  Combine that with a viral video and sharing on Facebook, and we may have been successful before the British had known what was happening.

Imagine how easy it would have been for Paul Revere and his poor tired horse if he could have just Tweeted out that the British were coming, then another to say where he saw them and another as to where they were going.  That whole “one if by land, two if by sea” thing would have been an unnecessary risk and chances are he would not have been arrested that evening as well.

Instead of waxing eloquently as the Widow Silence Dogood, Ben Franklin could have blogged out instantly his thoughts on country and leadership and the rights of man (of course he would update that for the medium he was using and been much more politically correct).  He could have held honest discourse and been able to respond to remarks on his blogs, kicked off the trolls and leveraged his celebrity to a spot as a talking head on one of the 24 hour news outlets.

George Washington and his Continental Army could have waged a major psyops campaign leveraging social networking technology.  Imagine a few good videos going viral of the guerilla warfare waged by Francis Marion down in the Carolinas.  Or, how much more effective his staff would have been coordinating attacks with Power Point and video teleconferencing.  Of course he would have to exert some draconian measures as there will always be someone who wants to pose for a pic with the body of a dead Red Coat.  That is nothing compared to the embarrassment of giving one of your Generals (Benedict Arnold for those of you who like to quote the FF’s but know absolutely nothing about our history) unfettered access to your secure files and he turns them over to the enemy while handing them the keys to one of your forts as well.

Long before the advent of the internet, social media and the ever-present, ever-sensational 24 hour news networks we had people that could inspire us with their words.  Words they backed up with deeds.  They provided leadership at a time when we had none.  They grew a nation of free Americans from a populace subjugated by a monarchy and its representative corporations.  They spoke through word, printed under anonymity until such a time when they had to show themselves to the people.  In their day, our Founding Fathers were the Anonymous of the time.  They saw what was believed to be wrong and acted out upon it.  When felt unfairly taxed, they stole away in the middle of the night and dumped the commodity in the sea.  When faced with violence from soldiers who would be quartered among the populace without their consent, they rose up and fought back.

Our Founding Fathers would not have been the men that we often misquote today if social media were available to them.  Their eloquent words would not have inspired a generation and it they would not have provided us with a foundation of principles.  The only sweeping and all encompassing reform they were willing to stand behind and risk their lives for was revolution.  They knew and understood from the point of declaring our independence it would require  concise, incremental change as the problems arose.  They did not stand up to create a utopia for the world to emulate, they wished to create something that our own citizens would both embrace and emulate for as long as we are a sovereign nation.  My personal opinion is that they would be mortified to know that there are whole segments of law and education dedicated to interpreting their words some 230+ years after they spoke them rather than giving voice to their own voices and inspiring our people to achieve greater than we have.  We have taken opportunity provided by the blood of patriots inspired by the words of leaders and squandered the opportunities.

I would like to end with a few quotes from Edmund Burke :

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing

The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion

To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting

Try to come up those quotes today and put them into the colloquialisms that are present.  Take those new words and use them on your favorite social networking site, but do so with the intent of effecting change rather than just running off at the mouth.  Be prepared for the consequences of your actions.  It is our right as Americans to determine our own destinies, but with that comes the risk of upsetting the apple cart.  A successful outcome as a result of that upset does not absolve you from the consequences of doing so, but good for good sake is its own reward when you know you have done so for the betterment of all.  After all in the words of the immortal Mark Twain:

Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.