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Paying Honor to Sacrificial Lions

November 10, 2014

Veterans Day, 2014
The world seems to be aflame. Violence, death and destruction run helter-skelter across our little blue planet. People are stressed to the breaking point everywhere. We don’t want the bad people to run our lives. We don’t want our children exposed to violence and anything associated with it, yet we demand that others stand unequivocally in harm’s way to protect us.

Who are these people willing to face being maimed or killed at any given moment? And for the love of God, why do they do it?

They are the warriors of our species, and they weren’t always that way. They all began life as sweetly and innocently as any child. But something inside drives them to protect and defend, and is willing to go ballistic in the service of that goal if need be. The reasons are as varied as the warriors themselves. The ability – physical as well as mental – that sets them apart from the rest of us also gathers them together. They are the men and women who make up our military.

Not all who serve survive the service. Some do not survive the training. Some do not survive combat. Some do not survive living with the aftermath. The high rate of suicide in the military is a heart-rending fact. If the rest of us had much exposure at all to what our warriors go through for us, we would understand all this in a heartbeat. But we don’t have that frame of reference. No movie or book will truly ever be able to convey those experiences. You have to be there.

I have not been there. Most people I know have not, nor will they ever be there. And from some warriors’ points of view, that is precisely why they are in the military – so the rest of us will never have to be there. They take on all the worst the world has to offer so the rest of us can have our idyllic homes and holidays, giggling children and backyard barbecues. So we never have to see or hear or smell or taste the atrocity that is war. So we are never touched by unconscionable horror. That is sacrifice of astronomical proportions.

To paraphrase the remarks of Abraham Lincoln from so many lifetimes ago, we the living cannot hallow or consecrate any of that sacrifice because those who died protecting us already did it through their actions. I would only add that the walking wounded have also done so – and the internal burdens they bear will follow them to their final resting places, so that we don’t have to bear them either.

Lest we forget.

Thank you, Veterans everywhere. Thank you for your service and thank you for the many sacrifices you have endured on behalf of the rest of us.

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