My heart is heavy, yet full of gratefulness today. As I watch coverage of Remembrance Day Ceremonies throughout our beautiful country, I am overcome by such a profound sense of appreciation that there really are no words which could adequately describe it.
My Grandfather was a Veteran. There were many others in my family who were also Veterans. I grew up knowing this, but never really having an appreciation of it. Perhaps because in my presence it was not spoken of often - or perhaps in my youth, I failed to sense the enormity of what was actually being discussed. I'm not sure which.
This is not to say that I was unable to recognize the importance of our Veteran's contributions to creating the world in which we live in today. That I lacked respect for the sacrifices made by fine young men and women who were willing to give of themselves so their families could live a life without fear and oppression. Intellectually I understood this - but in retrospect, did I actually feel this to the fullest extent? Looking back, I am ashamed to admit that I did not.
It's only been in the last few years that the reality of War has really begun to establish itself in my mind. I'm not sure how I could have looked at such events so simplistically, but somehow I managed to. Not so anymore.
When I think of War, of course, what still comes to mind are the seemingly endless battles and bloodbaths that occurred on fields throughout Europe, Korea, and Vietnam. I think of the Soldiers serving in Afghanistan - on a mission to create safety and freedom in a country full of many who wish to retain the status quo. It doesn't matter whether I agree with the troops being there or not, they are there on my Country's behalf - on my behalf. These are the things I have always thought of when I think of War.
When I look into the eyes of a Veteran, I see the fresh faced and naive young man who, on leaving to serve his country, turns to look at his family and friends one last time before walking out the door. Not knowing whether he will return home . . . not knowing the horrors that await him. Not knowing that even if he is fortunate enough to return home, things will never, ever be the same. He will be a different person.
I see the young woman, raising her children while her husband is on tour, waking every morning and wondering if this will be the day the phone will ring with dreaded news. The young woman who remains strong and positive for the sake of her children, her family and friends - all the while wondering if life will always be this way.
I see a family, terrified and hiding, starving not only for food, but for hope as well. They were born of the wrong religion. They survived in a time of evil. They are surrounded by the sounds and smells of hatred and disgust. It isn't their fault. They are persecuted anyways. They are tortured. They are murdered. Every effort is made to crush their souls and spirits. Many, despite all odds, survive and persevere. Millions do not. The survivors mourn for their people. The world mourns for their people. How can such evil exist?
I see the Soldier, about to enter his first battle. Three steps in and caught in an ambush. His Comrades who had no choice but to walk on by, knowing the young man never had a chance to say goodbye to those he loved and who loved him. Wondering if they will be spared - and if they are, why? Why do they live while others die?
I see the Soldier in combat - shooting at and being shot at by other men and women who physically are the same, but ideologically are different. Young men and women who also have families that love them. Who also love their country and are willing to fight for it.
I see the Soldier who watches his best friend perish in combat. The Soldier whose troop mate is killed in an incident of friendly fire. I see the soul of these Soldiers as they try to reconcile their cause with their grief.
I see the Soldier who returns home and is forever changed. She has seen things that one should never have to see. She reads stories by people who condemn war and the Soldiers who give of themselves for their country. She may be cast aside by some in society simply for making the choice to serve our country and fight for the freedoms of others.
I see the Nurse who looks into the eyes of a young man, and offers comfort and hope in his time of injury. Who celebrates recovery in one room and mourns the death of a young soul in another. Who tries hard not to wonder where God is when men are on the battlefield.
I see the Soldier who helps to build a better community for a group of people that deserve more than their country has to offer them.
I see a Soldier, in the midst of chaos and inhumanity, carrying a young child to safety so they may go on to live another day and perhaps influence change in the future.
I see a man, looking through a War History book, who comes across a picture of some Prisoners of War. He sees the face of his Father. A photo which he had never seen before, of a Father he barely knew. The image burned into his mind forever as he wonders what horrors this man who meant so much to him had to endure. As he wonders what life would have been like if his Father had survived.
I see the Veteran, reading the paper and learning that attendance at Remembrance Day Assemblies in Schools is now optional. I imagine him closing his eyes and thinking of his Comrades who fell for freedom, how his own life was forever changed by what he was forced to witness in his fight for his country. And I imagine his disgust.
My heart is heavy as I think of these sacrifices - and I am so incredibly grateful for the men and women who have and continue to make these sacrifices on our behalf. These are the things we must never forget. These are the things we must teach our children. This is why we must always remember. I pledge my commitment to always remember . . . do you?
In loving memory of my Grandfather, Lloyd Wesley Hart. Thank you Grandpa - for everything. I love you and miss you every day.