There are times when our emotions are so deep, the words escape us. We are left with actions, instead, to speak for us. Today, I let Josh Groban and Morrill Worcester do what I cannot seem to do. Josh’s tribute to our troops in his rendition of this song, and Morrill’s Wreaths Across America project that he started in 1992, both capture the love and support that so many of us have for our loved ones who are fighting for our freedoms, or who have died in the brave and heroic battles that have been hard-fought for you, for me, and for all of us — even those yet born — in this great country.
I have always stood for peace. In high school, we created a group called The Smile Merchants that promoted peace and love in all ways, especially for those who were less fortunate than we were during the holidays. We visited children’s hospitals and nursing homes, hoping to brighten people’s lives even just a little bit. But in the 80s there was no real war that we were fighting. My friends weren’t making critical decisions about joining the Armed Forces to fight for our freedoms. To me, peace was still a lingering term left over from the 70s, a time that I was still too young to understand Vietnam. My brothers did. They lost their best friends in that war. One of them still flies a POW-MIA flag at his house.
We were the generation that grew up between Vietman and the Persian Gulf War. And even that battle was so surgical in nature that it cast a pretty veil over the realities of war. As a man in my 20s, I still had no concept about what it meant to fight for the preservation of our freedoms.
That all changed in September of 2001. But it wasn’t some sudden jolt that might awaken me back to a time I had forgotten. There was no experience to recall. I was shocked — we all were. We didn’t know how to respond. Suddenly, we were responding to a call for freedom and security in unprecedented ways. We were not attacked by a particular country, and so we launched an offensive attack that we believed would serve as our best defense for our country.
In these last eight years, our lives, our histories, our backgrounds and experiences have all been rewritten. On the outside, we are not the same people we were at the beginning of the new Millennium, nor are we the same country. But on the inside, we are understanding — some of us for the first time — what it means to be an American citizen; what it means to have the freedoms and the securities unparalleled by any other country in the world.
That’s what war does. It strips away all the dressings and reveals our character, defines our core.
For those of us who have loved ones in the military, or who have lost loved ones who have already served, we understand it in an entirely different light. My two nephews are now fighting for this country’s freedoms, and because of that personal connection, I have been given the privilege to grasp the meaning behind the concepts of dedication, sacrifice, and commitment.
To devote your life to our freedoms. To face the enemy and stand tall as an American. To do all of this for all of us. We are strangers to them, for the most part. And yet, they don’t think twice about putting their lives on the line for you. Or for me.
Today, my friend and faithful commenter Michele is taking her son to Arlington to participate in Wreaths Across America. Last night, they were at BWI airport, welcoming home 330 soldiers who will get the chance to be home for Christmas with their loved ones. I told her that I thought it was a wonderful thing for her to be doing with her son. Humbly, she reminded me that it was nothing compared to what these soldiers have done for us.
Michele is right, of course, but we can never do enough to let these brave men and women know how grateful we are for the ultimate sacrifice they have vowed to make for you and me.
The songs and the videos are sad. They rip at our emotions and our hearts. But they allow others who don’t have the friends or family in the military to understand (like me just a few years ago) how important their service is for all of us, now and forever.
Please, take the time this holiday season and do something for our troops. Write a card, send a care package, even share a video or a story with somebody who is struggling to understand. If you see a member of the military at the local grocery store, take a moment and say Thank You. Let them know that you, a stranger, are grateful for what they are sacrificing for all of us.
We’re all for peace. And we all want our soldiers to come home safely. Let us remember, especially during this time of year, that we are who we are because of them. So whether it is a grandfather who fought in World War II or a brother who just received his orders last week, take the time to remember, to give thanks, and to cherish the freedoms we still share today.