Without their sacrifice for this country, none of us would be enjoying the freedoms we have today — to spend time with family, to send nuts for Jericho, to raise money for a nonprofit, to post an entry on a blog. Sure, you can do all these things today, but please remember to pause for the people who gave their lives so you could do it.
Years ago, I was asked by a city government to write a tribute speech for American War Mothers, whose members are mothers of children who have served or are serving in the armed services during a time of conflict. The speech won't fit into a blog post, but I thought I'd paraphrase a few lines:
I am the American soldier
The same day I enlisted in the armed forces, my mother volunteered to assist food conservation and war relief work so she could help, my regiment, and our Allies win the Great War. 1917.
A few years later, I was back in Europe fighting a very different war — this time as a gunnery sergeant aboard a B-17 Flying Fortress. With bombing raids in the afternoons and early mornings, my mother knew as well as I did: most would not come home. 1943.
We won, but our celebration was premature. It wasn't long before I found my squad on a roadblock about 11 miles south of the Sudan in North Korea. It wasn't a popular military action, but my mom's belief in me never wavered. 1952.
Our faith and freedom was soon tested again. As I took cover in the dense underbrush of Vietnam, she found that her words—that there really was a war over there—fell on deaf ears. It took time before people listened, but she never gave up. 1968.
Since Vietnam, there have been dozens of different conflicts, military actions, and wars — so many that sometimes people take me, the American soldier, for granted. And all too often, our country forgets who served, who fought, and who died in faraway places like Grenada, Kuwait, or Baghdad. It's okay. People forget, except one person. The American War Mother. Sometimes she alone ensures our sacrifices, so others may live free, will never be forgotten.
Some of the inspiration for the lines that made up the entire speech came from reading hundreds of real letters by American soldiers, sent home to their mothers. As you might suspect, these women, whether their sons and daughters came home or not, will never forget. Please don't let them remember our fallen alone. Take some time today to honor our armed forces.
Sure, I know some people will have you believe that today is a political hot button topic, but don't believe that for a minute. When you're a soldier wounded in a foreign country or a mother anxiously waiting for the next letter of hope, there are no politics.
May they all come home safe, these brave men and women. Good night and good luck.