Posts Tagged ‘service’

This Sunday is the 15th anniversary of the day that forever changed the fabric of our nation.  The 9/11 attacks which killed 2,977 people touched the lives of every American.  While I personally did not know anyone who was a victim of the attacks, I spent the next 13 years experiencing the further effects of that day.  Prior to 9/11, it had been many years since I had seen the towers, even though I grew up seeing them on a very regular basis, from the New Jersey side, with the Statue of Liberty in clear profile with them.  The only time I have seen the area since has been from an airplane taking off or landing at Newark International Airport while heading out TDY somewhere for the Army.

My sister-in-law, whom I did not know at that period in time, lovingly changes her Facebook profile photo each year to that of her dear friend from school, Tonyell McDay, who lost her young life during those senseless attacks.  While I do not know anyone personally who died, everyone I know from that day forward either lost someone on 9/11 or during combat action in the years following.  9/11 is not a day that requires anyone to go more than two or three degrees of separation in order to connect any individual to someone directly affected.

In the days, weeks, months, and, early years after that day, there was a loud call from the citizens of this great country to come together in support of the survivors, the friends and families, as well as the recovery efforts in the time that followed.  Patriotism became a unifying banner across the nation as we identified the perpetrators of this horrific attack and began to take action to avenge the fallen.  As the days unfolded, we as a country experienced Patriotism in the truest sense of the word; it encompassed empathy and compassion for our Nation and those directly and indirectly affected by the attacks, and, in the sense of pride in our Armed Forces as we moved off to war to avenge this senseless attack.

In subsequent years that all-too-real, yet indefinable feeling has waned.  Not for the victims of the attacks or remembrance of the attacks themselves, but for the idea that is this great country as a whole.  For a very short period of time of the last decade and a half, the nation stood as what I can only imagine the Founding Fathers envisioned when they created the concept of what this nation should be.

Instead of building and improving upon that brief moment, we have let it slip us by, and we have squandered an opportunity born of tragedy.  I have been fortunate enough to witness the rise of some truly great leaders, both in the military and civilian world.  I speak of people capable of transformation, advancement and vision, yet, it does not seem as if it is possible for them to rise to the point, either from circumstance or personal belief, that they can move to the position where they can truly influence this nation on a different path; a path that will take us away from being a country that can only seem to come together as a result of tragedy rather than as a way of life.

As we draw closer to the 15th anniversary of this infamous day, we are being sucked further into the circus that is our run-up the the Presidential election, and I have to say that it is a bitter disappointment that we, as a nation, can only present to the world a shallow pool of candidates as a representation of a nation which at one time stood together in solidarity in the aftermath of tragedy.  Today we stand fractured with the narrative in control of a two-party system and a media which refuses to recognize that there are viable candidates beyond this crop of weeds that presents itself as a garden.

Patriotism is a feeling, an ideal, an intangible that means something different to everyone but has a common thread that runs through it which evokes a passion and emotion particular to each individual.  Unfortunately, in its inability to be defined, patriotism is  susceptible to the vitriolic narratives of party candidates, presented in a never-ending stream of sound bites to a gullible public by news outlets on a 24 hour loop.  We as Americans, are responsible for this because we are willing to accept what has been placed before us as our only options, latching on to the buzzwords which speak to the issues we see as personal to us, rather than demanding the service required by their offices they hope to achieve instead of leadership and service.

This Sunday we should reflect and remember, and pray if that is what you need.  As we do so, do not do it just for those we lost on that day.  Also do it for what we have lost since then, that brief period when we as individuals came together as one, regardless of the differences we possessed or the beliefs we harbored.  Open your heart and soul, clear your mind and really try to get in touch with that day and the emotions it evoked.  When you wake up Monday morning and get ready to start your week, as you read your paper, watch the news or listen to the radio, think about your reflection from the day before and ask yourself if this is the best we can do, are these people who are pushing our buttons to try and draw us to their side, the best we can do or is it okay to settle because they are all their is?  If you are even remotely capable of capturing a small part of what you felt on September 11th, 2001, then you will probably say that we are headed for disappointment instead of greatness, stagnation rather than excellence.

Remember our fallen and those who still suffer from that day and all the days since.  They deserve better from us, they deserve the us that rose from the ashes in the aftermath, not the us we have allowed ourselves to become.

BTAR

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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.