Sunday, November 11, 2012

Earn This

One of the strongest emotional tugs a good story delivers to my heartstrings centers on the idea of personal sacrifice.  Frequently, at the end of a movie or during the climax of a novel, I find myself a blubbering mess as the hero gives up everything they are in order to save others.  Even now, reflecting on some of the most powerful scenes, my eyes glisten slightly.  Of course, nothing Hollywood or the publishing industry can do will ever be as powerful as real life sacrifice.  Giving of yourself to save and protect others is one of the most honorable actions a person can take.  There is no better example of an organization that exemplifies this idea as the United States Military.  Thank you Veterans for the sacrifices you have made to keep us and our way of life safe.

The word sacrifice too often implies the giving up of ones life in order to protect others; this definition is much too limited.  There are many ways a person can give up their life to serve without having to die.  These sacrifices must be honored as well.  

Veterans and current service men and women give up choice for much of their life.  They live where they are assigned, relocating many times during their service.  If on assignment or deployment, they spend months at a time away from their loved ones.  If in a combat arena, they go about their duties with the knowledge that they may never see their families again.  Yet still they serve, putting our lives ahead of theirs.  

Many Veterans have sacrificed their health for this country and its people.  From those who have returned from deployment with bodily injury to those who come back uninjured physically yet suffering mentally, our Veterans put themselves at risk for us.  Their constant vigilance despite the risk to themselves deserves our recognition and thanks.  It takes a powerful person to knowingly step into a career in which their entire life will be driven by the level of sacrifice their country asks of them.

There are also the few who do give the total sacrifice, giving their life for ours.  While too many of the men and women have have died in service of our country are faceless unknowns to the rest of us, their sacrifice is no less, their honor heightened rather than diminished due to their anonymity.  They do not serve to achieve acclimation and fame.  There is no promise of TV time or a book highlighting their life.  They go about their service for that purpose alone - to serve.

Veterans are special people and they should be recognized as such.  Whether they are serving now or last wore their uniform decades ago, their choice to enter the armed forces was a choice to sacrifice for you and for me.  They don’t know us just as we might not know them, yet with every breath during their service, they lived and died to make sure our lives could be lived free.  Though all of their names may not be inscribed on a memorial, the memory of how they live should be written on our hearts.

While I said before Hollywood comes nowhere near close enough to the idea of real life sacrifice, at least they can offer the rest of us a guide on how to live our lives to honor that sacrifice.  In the final scenes of the 1998 film Saving Private Ryan, Tom Hanks' character Captain Miller leaves Private Ryan with words the rest of us should live by - "Earn this."

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