Something About Nothing Column published in the Albert Lea Tribune on May 26, 2014
Every year I rack my brain when it comes to holiday columns. I always wonder what I could possibly say that I haven’t said before. Memorial Day weekend is here. Take time to remember those who fought to protect America, remember their families, etc., etc., etc. How many ways can I spin this and still be sincere?
The other evening I was watching the unveiling of the new 9/11 Memorial Museum. Firefighters, members of the military and public citizens marched into the museum carrying the giant American flag, which had been flying from a building beside the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. It had been damaged and found in the debris at Ground Zero. This flag was transferred into the museum to be part of a permanent collection in the museum.
World War II took place before I was born. The Korean War took place when I was a toddler. The Vietnam War took place during my teen and young adult years. The Persian Gulf War took place as I was raising my children.
I remember the exact place I was in the grocery store when it was announced over the speaker that we were at war. It was a scary feeling. I remember the basketball game during the few days and the patriotism that people felt at what was happening. As I age we are fighting a war in Afghanistan.
Those are listings of the wars that get the most press. According to Wikipedia, between 1900 and the present the United States has been involved in some way or another in 42 wars.
On Sept. 11, 2001, the world as we knew it changed again. Watching the museum ceremony on television and the interviews with the people who actually lived 9/11 in person brought tears to my eyes. I remembered the way the world stopped for America that day.
I have to imagine that is the way my ancestors felt at the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Their world, too, changed that day.
The world we live in has to adjust to the changes that war brings to our lives, whether the war is on our soil. We have had to adjust to husbands, fathers, wives, mothers and sons and daughters leaving home to fight for our freedoms. We have had to adjust to a more restrictive way of life. I would imagine our ancestors had to do the same. Little by little the world has changed to what we now know after 9/11.
I am 64 years old, and I realize there has been a war going on for most of my life. Hearing the casualties and the news about attacks and bombings has become a way of life that gets lost in our news because we are used to it. Soldiers’ injuries and mental health problems from long tours overseas is talked about and has become a daily conversation. Post-traumatic stress disorder has become a common term in our world. We go on with our lives, walk the streets with our neighbors and settle in to accept these things as an everyday way of life passing the issues off as normal news.
For those who live with injuries, death of loved ones and instability because of emotional issues, the normal news is their fact of life. They aren’t a passing story; they can’t take their issues for granted because they must live them day in and day out.
It’s Memorial Day. Take some time to reflect on what the conflicts of the past and the conflicts of the future have cost us as a country. Consider what the conflicts have cost the veterans of yesterday and the soldiers and their families of today. Take some time to reflect on how your life has been changed because of these conflicts.
And then say thank you to a veteran. Say thank you because even in the country where we complain about our politicians, the cost of living, the job market, our churches, our police force, health care and our president we still are free to verbalize our thoughts. We still are free to worship in our religion of choice. We still are free to complain or shout with joy. We still live in the greatest country, the home of the brave and the land of the free.
And we still are free to thank those who keep us free.