May 27, 2013

Freedom Isn’t Free.

Ah, Memorial Day, that extra day to your weekend—but you know that it’s supposed to mean more, right?

Apparently (according to Wikipedia) Memorial Day originates all the way back to our country’s Civil War, and it serves the purpose of honoring the men and women who died serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Every time I drive to my daughter’s favorite breakfast diner, we drive under an old railroad bridge, the kind that’s largely made up now of rusted metal, and as we go underneath I always see where someone painted in white “Freedom Isn’t Free.”

Thanks again to Wikipedia, I can let you know that this is an official phrase coined by an Air Force Colonel, Walter Hitchcock. This now seemingly ubiquitous group of words is also engraved into one of the walls of the Korean War Veterans Memorial in D.C., where I’ve visited and walked  many times.

Yet, have you ever read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the World?

I won’t spoil it for you if not, but, according to the philosophy on these pages, we can thank many of our country’s wars for political reasons that lack gumption or, frankly, even morality.

Regardless, these decisions and orders come from a very small, select group of people, and those men and women serving for us, and for our nation, deserve respect—and those who lost their lives definitely deserve to be memorialized and honored, at the very least, on one day out of the year.

My own dad was in the army during the Vietnam “conflict.” (Again, there is, not shockingly, a lot of political agenda behind “war.”) Thankfully, though, he made it through, but you know what? A lot of people didn’t—a lot of people that he knew and spent considerable amounts of time with.

Have you ever taken the time to listen to an older guy who was in World War II?

I have, and, let me tell you, they don’t like to talk about it.

Because war is something that us civilians cannot fathom. I, for one, don’t want to even try to imagine the horrors that were witnessed.

So while I definitely understand taking issue with war or politics, or whatever you’re finding is important to lift the veil from at this moment in your life, please set some of your opinions, and perhaps hostility, towards our nation’s political scene aside and remember that today should be more than just a third day added to your weekend.

People truly have died so that we could raise our kids with the many wonderful things that do exist in our country.

I have a few friends from other places, and, very generally speaking, many out there are proud to be from their nations of birth. I think, as Americans, we spend so much time trying to fix what’s wrong (go us! sincerely, I mean that) and picking what’s (usually obviously) wrong, that we forget to take a second to look around and notice all of those great things about where we go to sleep and wake up.

As cheesy as this may be, I really wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

I honestly don’t want to raise my daughter in any other location.

I love living in the U.S.

Sure, I think we need to do a few things for ourselves, and for those around us (like legalize gay marriage), but that doesn’t mean that everything that’s happening in the good ol’ U-S-of-A is negative.

We have free speech.

We have elephant journal.

We have each other.

We have (occasional) three-day weekends—and we have a lot more to be grateful for than this small list.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to spend some of my day today reflecting back on those who I’ve met that served our country, on those I love now who are still serving for us, and on the many marked and unmarked graves with U.S. flags next to them that are scattered over our country’s landscape.

Freedom certainly is not free—but a little bit of remembrance is.

“Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.” ~ Mark Twain


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Ed: Kate Bartolotta

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