Saturday, May 26, 2012

Memorial Day Or Thanksgiving?

Yesterday's post was about writing personal essays with a patriotic theme. I am going to post three that I have written in the past. This one was published in the Kansas City Star last Memorial Day. Come back tomorrow for another.

Memorial Day Or Thanksgiving?
By Nancy Julien Kopp

Let’s add something to this Memorial Day. While we honor those who gave their lives for our country, let’s also give tribute to those who serve now in Afghanistan and Iraq, and other parts of the world. The news media gives us the numbers deployed, the numbers who return, the numbers in each country.
The men and women who serve in our armed forces today are not only numbers in a newspaper article. Those who deploy leave behind parents, sisters and brothers, spouses and children, as well as myriad friends. They are people. They laugh, they cry, they love, they endure hardships, they work hard. They are human beings with all the emotions you and I experience. They sweat, they like to eat three times a day or more, they enjoy fellowship with others, they pray, they shake with fear more often than we’ll ever know. They are warm, living beings—not numbers in a news account.
The people in each brigade smile, cry, tell jokes, and treasure the photos of loved ones. They have headaches and stomachaches like you and I. They get slivers
in their fingers and bruises on arms and legs. They’re no less vulnerable to physical ailments than any of us, but they face dangers we have never dreamed of.
I live near an army post, so I frequently see uniformed soldiers. They stop at the grocery store on their way home from work just like teachers and attorneys and librarians do. They pick up their children at soccer fields as a civilian mom or dad does. We are all very much alike, except for one thing. These soldiers, male and female, have volunteered to serve, to protect our country at home and in foreign lands, to perhaps put their life in danger while doing so.
Have you ever thanked a soldier or marine or sailor? Maybe you’d feel uncomfortable walking up to a total stranger and saying, “Thanks for all you do for me and the rest of America every day.” You can give a great gift by saying something like it to a member of the armed forces. Think about it the next time you see an American in uniform.
A few years ago, my husband and I were returning from a visit to Europe. We were tired and anxious to get through customs when we landed in the USA. As we approached the passport checkpoint, a door opened and an entire unit of uniformed soldiers filed through. They were returning from Iraq, an even longer flight than we’d had. We stopped and watched these fatigued young men and women as they walked by. Some nodded and smiled, others stared straight ahead. Some I could barely see for the tears that filled my eyes. I wanted so badly to say Welcome Home to them, but the lump in my throat didn’t allow it. The pride that encompassed me at that moment cannot be described. I was every soldier’s mother for just an instant.
And what about the ones who didn’t return to walk through that airport door--the ones who came home in a body bag or a wooden coffin. My pride in them is every bit as strong along with a deep and abiding gratitude in what they gave for the rest of us. They sacrificed so that we continue to live in a free country and that others might, too. 
On Memorial Day or any day, take time to say thank you to a military person. Say it in person or say it in your heart, but please say it.

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