JP Mac’s Armed Forces Day Rant:
We hear all the time in seems about tough jobs that supposedly, American’s won’t do. I don’t believe it, mainly because I’ve worked in several of those jobs myself. Thank God there is one really tough job that for centuries, so far enough Americans have wanted to do. One where the pay and living conditions aren’t always the best, one that calls for huge sacrifices on the part of those who volunteer to do it and their families: Serve in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Americans are supposedly too soft to do some jobs. No American would take a job filling sandbags in 110 degree heat, right? Surely no one living in the greatest nation in world history would slog through a mosquito infested swamp, walk for half a day though the forest, or climb a mountain just to get to the job-site. Who from this country would choose a job that makes you long for things things like warm food, hot water, a bed? Of course no self -respecting, video game playing, social media obsessed American would ever want to stay out in sub-freezing weather for hours watching an empty field or patch of sea right? Yet somehow for generations, by the tens of thousands, Americans have volunteered to for jobs that entail doing all of these things and more– and by the way, sometimes while people are trying hard to kill them.
Thank God for such men and women. For some reason, (rarely the great pay) they have decided to, at least temporarily, forgo many of comforts that come with so many other jobs. For some, it’s the promise of adventure, or having that “hero” switch, or protector gene. Other just want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. It may be that they realize that they live in a country– more that many others, that is worth fighting for. They, in put the ‘exceptionalism’ in American Exceptionalism. Whatever the reason, these men and women have chosen a vocation that routinely requires sacrifice, sometime of the ultimate kind. That is why today is their day, a day for them to be proud, and the rest of America to be proud of them.
When I was younger, Memorial Day was just another holiday, another day off from school or from work. It was the Indy 500 and barbeques. It’s not that I wasn’t patriotic, I was, but even though I knew that people had died for my country, the idea of a fallen hero was still an abstract. All of my uncles who served in WWII had come back, and other than them I knew very few people personally who served in any shooting war. Even in the Army I met very few combat vets, the few I did were almost all in Vietnam. Almost no one from my generation had ever been killed in combat. Then September 11th happened. Shortly after, we were at war again and shortly after that, persons from my generation and younger were making the ultimate sacrifice. I guess at that point I began to understand the true meaning of Memorial Day.
And so I suppose it is, that we don’t really understand what it is we’re celebrating, until such point as the celebration becomes second to our memories and silent reflection. Some though, have no personal connection to this holiday. It is still for them, an abstract notion of someone else’s sacrifice, something they are but vaguely aware of. Does it anger me? No, I was like them, maybe it takes knowing someone who did not come back to appreciate the day. Don’t get me wrong, barbeques are great, races are great, being with family and friends is great. A day off from work is always welcome. It’s a celebration of life that other have earned for us. Honoring our fallen countrymen, even for a moment on one day a year helps us to appreciate all we have as a free people.