My Dad lied about his age to join the Navy during WWII. Days later he was in San Francisco, getting ready to ship out on a destroyer headed for Japan. He was surrounded by a bunch of guys of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds, but much like him they shared a common sense of purpose. He spent most of his time in the Pacific Theatre and thankfully returned home safe and sound, although I know he experienced horrible things we still don’t talk about to this day.
Our enemies then were obvious and easy to identify. They had a defined geographic location. Wars like that were as horrific and unthinkable as any ever were or will be, but few could argue that we didn’t have skin in the game.
Things are very different after 9/11, although the call for retribution after the attack on American soil and the frustration and anger we felt mirrored Pearl Harbor. Somehow whatever goodwill and global sympathy that came our way was quickly destroyed, and almost a decade later we find ourselves involved in at least two major war efforts. Whether liberators or occupiers, our blood is being shed halfway around the globe in an effort that increasingly looks more like Vietnam than World War Two.
We’re on the cusp of even bigger involvement while back home our economy struggles, our politicians bicker and – perhaps most sadly – a large number of us walk through each day oblivious to what is happening to us.
Are we really a society that is that ill-informed on matters of importance but well-schooled on what’s happening in the gossip pages? Too lazy to listen to the President’s speech but plenty of time to DVR Gossip Girl? Unwilling to discuss health care or the morality of foreign conflict but happy enough to dedicate hours of talking head television to Tiger Woods and his family indiscretions?
At least for today – a day that will live in infamy – can we put aside the mundane bullshit that we wallow in like oblivious sheep? Can we give thought to the brave men and women – hell, boys and girls – who volunteered to put their lives on the line so that we could sit at home, safely, to participate in such nonsense? Like my Dad, they went not out of formal obligation, but as a personal one. People of character, strength and purpose.
Yet we take them for granted. We’d rather give our attention to the celebretards and reality show losers and fallen idols. Can we please, as we stumble through a holiday season of gifts and parties and fanfare, give some thought to what really matters?
I was lucky that the man who would become my Dad came home. Many he served with did not. Many families today mourn – and will mourn – when their sons and daughters and mothers and fathers depart and never come home. Maybe you know those people. Maybe you are those people.
I don’t pretend to understand the complexity of what is happening in the Middle East, or whether our actions are justified or not. I do know that we have thousands and thousands of brave people around the world who are in the thick of it all day every day. I do know that I do not and will not ever take that for granted.
Even if for one day, remember these people, these volunteers, the truly brave among us, and do something. Write a letter, send a care package, reach out to their families…do something to acknowledge in a small way that you understand their sacrifice and appreciate it. And when you sit around your Christmas tree or holiday celebration, take a moment to remember all those people who wish they could be doing that with their family as well, but who chose to sacrifice even that for the rest of us.
The American Red Cross