Wednesday, August 01, 2007
Tour of duty
WWII Memorial in Washington D.C.
We just got home from a short trip to our nation's capital. As part of our sightseeing tour, we viewed some of our country's finest monuments. One of the most beautiful memorials was the WWII Memorial recently completed in 2004. As the kids ran around the fountains and pillars of marble, I sat and thought about the 400,000 men and women who lost their lives in this massive war so that I could sit and watch my children grow up in a place where they could pursue life, liberty and happiness. These soldiers and paid the ultimate price for me, a stranger. I was moved. I was grateful.
The kids in front of the North Carolina pillar at the WWII Memorial.
Later on the next day, we moved on to the
Arlington National Cemetery where we viewed Kennedy's grave, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the changing of the guard. We passed thousands upon thousands of headstones of people who fought and died in the Civil War through to today's Iraq war. I thought about the many mothers and the millions of tears shed. I thought about the wives and the fatherless children. I thought about many things as viewed the rolling hills of white. After a hefty walk in the heat, I sat on one of the benches in the shade next to a war veteran of about 80 or so years. He was just sitting there. Quiet. All by himself, staring out into the hill. He looked pensive, sad, and not really open to talking. So we just sat there quietly together. I wanted to turn to him and ask him so many questions about his life, his service, what he saw, what he thinks of people today, if it was worth it, would he do it all over again? What he would want my children to know? I wanted so badly to thank him for all his generation did for mine, and I wanted to apologize for the shortcomings of my generation. He did not speak, and I did not ask.
Jack and Gus stand at attention and silence during the changing of the guard at Tomb of the Unknown Soldier-Arlington National Cemetery
I wonder if the veterans of WWII and the other wars shake their heads at my generation when they hear that we now have the freedom to kill a million babies a year as part of a freedom of choice. The freedom to sit in front of a talking box hour after hour watching violence, s*x, foul language, and crude humor as part of our freedom. I wonder if they throw their hands up at us when they see the millions of broken homes due to drugs, alcohol, pornography, and lives engulfed in materialism. I wonder if they want to turn their backs to us with tears in their eyes when we criticize the military, burn the flag, and throw out the Pledge. Are they disgusted when kids kill each other for the latest video game system or for the best I-gadget? The list goes on and on. Is this what they fought for? I think not. I feel my generation is missing out on how to live with honor, respect and dignity. We don't know how and don't seem to care about finding out. We're spoiled. We've been given way too much and did not have to work very hard to get any of it. Spoiled.
So I felt really sheepish when I looked at all the self-sacrifice before me and concluded that the best way to honor the men/women who fought so valiantly for me and for future generations is to live a life of honor and respect. To raise children who are aware of how BLESSED they are to have been born American. To teach my kids to respect authority, honor those who deserve it, remember the times of difficulty and appreciate the important gift of life. To live a life in the positive mode, and not wallow in negativity or darkness. Most importantly, to never ever blame others for any lack of success...but to hold themselves accountable for mistakes made...to learn from them and to move forward.
I think that veteran would have told me that.