Monday, May 28, 2012
Every year, we get bombarded with two very distinct and disjunct messages about Memorial Day. One is the commercialized, "Hooray, it's Barbeque Day!" The other is the uber-graphic and patriotic, weeping soldier's widow, Arlington tombstone landscape, etc. that is supposed to shame us into loving our country and respecting the difficult job our military has. As you might expect, my opinion is a bit more subtle and simply that we should all be conscious - at least minimally - of the sacrifices that are made every day on our behalf. If it makes us think, "Wait - I think that sacrifice was unnecessary!"...well, that's a call to a different kind of patriotism - being civically active. Regardless, I can't imagine living a life where I don't have a basic level of respect and ongoing awareness of "what freedom costs," to paraphrase a bumper sticker.
I grew up within 30 miles of CIA Camp Perry, Naval Weapons Station Yorktown (where Atlantic-bound vessels receive their nuclear payloads), Naval Station Norfolk (world's largest naval base), Newport News Shipyard (world's largest privately owned yard), Naval Shipyard Portsmouth, Naval Air Station Oceana, Langley Air Force Base, and a dozen others, not to mention, just a few miles from my childhood home, Nike Nuclear Missile Battery N-85. Living with and among the US military is a way of life in southeastern Virginia - no doubt about it.
And it's not that all of those men and women are perfect, perfectly patriotic, or in some cases, even useful to our fight against international enemies. But the sacrifices, especially in war time, come weekly, even daily. The sacrifices are indiscriminate and unfair. Sadly, they are most often unnoticed by the rest of us. And yet, their brothers and sisters carry on.
This week - this summer - and the rest of this year, bear in mind what's been lost to other families, especially in communities like the one in which I grew up. Even if you're in part of the country that lacks a big military presence, it's all part of the tapestry. There's no usefulness in feeling bad that our families perhaps did not make these sacrifices (regardless of whether our family members served), but it's worthwhile to occasionally consider the weight of that loss in families and communities. God bless those who sacrificed, and God bless those who were left behind.