When I started this blog just over a year ago (yes, that is hard to believe), it was almost Veterans Day. In honor of my dad and all of those who have served our country, I wrote this post.
Now, a year later, I am celebrating (or really not celebrating) Veterans Day in India. I was half-way through the day before I even realized it was November 11th. I quickly sent a few emails to those soldiers in my life who I am so proud of and so honored to know. But that was pretty much it. School was in session (yes, even though it is an American school) and my day was pretty much like any other day. I did not hear the Star Spangled Banner and I did not see parades on tv. It was nearly Veterans Day Unattended.
But on Saturday, number one hubby and I had the chance of a lifetime. We got to attend the Marine Corps Ball. It is held every year on the birthday of the Marine Corps and my understanding is that all Marines celebrate the day on the same date. So all over the world Marines were celebrated and recognized and honored. It was lovely.
Security is tighter than normal for an event like this. Unfortunately, it has to be and thankfully, it was. So we started the evening by being reminded that the world is not always a safe place – that the dangers are real and the threats are taken seriously. That there are still people who can collectively hate a nation without taking the time to get to know its individuals. Our car was inspected, our purses were inspected, our bodies were checked. But it was okay. It is the reality of life here – really, I guess, it is the reality of life any where.
Then we walked through the reception line into the party. It was really a chilling and endearing moment. We were greeted by the very young faces of the men and women who have made it their life’s work to keep us safe. They do not get to decide when and where and who we fight – they simply have to be ready to run into the fire. I had to the chance to shake the hand of someone who does not know me at all but is willing to put their life in danger for me. Wow.
Their shoes were spit-shined, their uniforms crisp, and their smiles wide and sincere. I thanked them teary-eyed for their service and was grateful for the chance to let them know that their mission is not unappreciated. I wanted them to know that I understand how much they must miss their families and how much their families must miss them. That I know what they sacrifice and the potential danger they face every day just by putting on that uniform. And I am extremely thankful for all that they do. Of course, I couldn’t get that all out – all I could muster was a humble, whispered “thank you” but that river of gratitude runs deep – very, very deep.
As the ceremonies of the evening began, the reality of this world came crashing in again. The military is steeped in tradition and honor and those values came shining through at the ball. The color guard presented the flags. They were followed by soldiers who brought in an empty table. A table with places reserved for those who could not attend because they lost their lives too early defending our freedom. It was a bring you to your knees moment.
Those of you who know me well probably know the story of my brother-in-law. He served in Iraq and almost did not make it home. He walked into a building with several of his comrades and he was one of the very lucky few who was able to walk out. It was a set-up. A merchant convinced the soldiers to go into the building by telling them that the person they were looking for was in there. And then he waited for someone to push a button that collapsed the building. He watched those young men walk into a building and hoped they would not walk out. That is so impossible to fathom.
I had almost allowed myself to forget that my brother-in-law had that experience. He is home safe now and that is what really matters, right? Well, maybe not so much. Of course, I am absolutely thrilled that he is home. But, that experience will never leave him and there are other soldiers who have now taken his place. Not all of them will be as lucky as he was. Soldiers who have to walk into buildings everyday without knowing if they will come out. They are in danger simply because they love America enough to put on the uniform and fight for all that we hold dear.
My brother-in-law and I were talking about his service one time and he told me that he served in the Army to protect Bear, Flower, and Angel from losing their freedoms. To keep their world safe and uninterrupted. He has given them gifts that will never fit under a tree, but that will last a lifetime. How do you measure that gift – how do you teach someone to be appreciative of it? I hope I do justice to his story so that they will know how lucky they are – how much they are loved – how grateful they must be.
So, once again I am reminded of how lucky we are that soldiers volunteer to protect us. That they are willing to run into the fire so that we never have to run away from it. Thank you to all of you who have been a soldier or who have loved a soldier.