As a naturalized citizen born in World War II, I have great appreciation for America, the opportunities she presents to those who come through her portals, and the people who serve and protect. I watch with great sorrow when at the end of each program, KCPT News Hour presents in silent tribute, pictures of soldiers who have fallen. They were young men and women. They were someone's child, spouse, or parent. For that moment I feel that they were my own. I ask myself, "Am I worthy of them? What have I done today to have deserved their sacrifice?"
Veteran's Day is not just a holiday, a day off from work, or a chance to go shopping for bargains. It is not just one day but all the days to remember that somewhere there is a soldier who stands guards for my freedom because freedom is not free. Soldiers understand this. A soldier stands guard somewhere so I can go shopping, write what I want, speak my mind, pursue the American dream, and sleep soundly at night. I am ashamed when I complain of a bad day at the office while somewhere a soldier is carrying heavy military gear in over 100 degree heat while dodging bullets and land mines. Whatever stress I might experience is a minor inconvenience in comparison.
Soldiers go where they are ordered by the country's leaders who may not always have clarity of purpose. They waive political affiliation to follow their commander-in-chief. They are called to respond to national emergencies, guard our coasts, fly our air space and plumb the depth of our oceans to keep the nation safe. The men and women of the military may be seen in disaster areas at home and abroad, in peace keeping contingents or in war. Wherever they are, they are always in harms way, intentional or accidental. Young, vital men and women go to war. They do not always come home whole. They come home to a people who do not always remember but for this one day and do not always express their gratitude. Too many do not come home at all. Beyond the life lost and the disabled, there are families who serve alongside their soldier for a service they did not sign up for. To them, I am also grateful.
We are in a rapidly changing world where our priorities can often get confused and national policies even more so. We are also now citizens of a global community and not just one country. For whatever reason nations choose to go to war, we must never forget that war kills; lives are lost be they friend, foe, innocent or combatant. One life lost is one too many. A mother's sorrow for a lost child is the same the world over. Sadly, war will continue until man gives up hate and learns to love.
Today I make a promise to honor these men and women by living an honorable life. I promise to be the best that I can be and make my piece of the world better. I promise not to take my freedom and liberty for granted. Most importantly, I promise to love.