Let’s Be Clear

On holidays like Memorial Day, I feel especially defensive of the people I consider to be heroes.  Standing under a flag at half-staff, listening to a child play Taps, choking back tears, I know exactly who my heroes are.  They are not sports figures; those are idols.  They are not surgeons who correct a heart condition or cancer; those are healers.  They are not people who died in their place of business on 9/11; those were victims.  My definition of a hero is limited to a person who  knowingly risks his/her life and safety with the idea that someone else, or something else, is more important.  They make the ultimate sacrifice – themselves.

I am in awe of the people who fight for my freedom and end up losing their own to loss of life or limb or peace of mind.

I am in awe that in the absence of a draft, our armed forces are stocked with volunteers.

I am in awe that so many have the courage and the calling that I lack.

In quiet moments I reflect on moments that aren’t so quiet – when bombs are bursting and people are dying.  And I feel that I’ll never be worthy to stand beside those who have stood up for me.  There was a time when most of the world – including those who were left behind – made sacrifices during war.  They did without, they worked harder, they mourned repetitively.  These days, war could be just another reality show on t.v.  Life goes on, uninterrupted, for the majority.  For this I am guilty and ashamed.

Yet I wonder, is this what my heroes would want?  For me to stand in my house, safe and sound, feeling bad about myself and sorry for them?  Or would they prefer that I dance in my yard, breathing in the fresh air, forgetting myself, carefree.  Isn’t that what they fight for?  This very freedom?

Today I pause, at least for a moment, to remind myself that this is not, as one woman said, ‘National BBQ Day.’  It is the day we get clear on what, exactly, a hero is.  I may follow that moment with a burger from the grill, a backyard game, and a laugh or two.  And I will enjoy it all in the spirit of the freedom that I did not earn, but that others so generously gave to me.

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