Words of Thanks

Nov. 12, 2012

A Veterans Day note of thanks to those serving and those who have served.

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No one would call me overtly patriotic.

I don’t dress in head-to-toe red, white and blue on the Fourth of July (or Memorial Day, or Veterans Day, for that matter).

I will repeatedly ignore your Facebook post demanding that I am “un-American” if I don’t click “like” on the picture of the soldier you’ve never met.

I immediately turn off music by any country singer who banks on telling me that “they” are out to get “us” in his effort to sell an album.

But as I stood at Pacific University’s Veterans Day ceremony this afternoon, listening to the Chamber Singers perform, watching pictures of soldiers rotate on the screen, being charmed by elementary-age Cub Scouts carrying and saluting flats at least twice their size, I was reminded that none of those things define patriotism. None of them has anything to do with truly honoring and respecting the freedoms we have as Americans and the men and women who defend those freedoms.

I was reminded this afternoon that I cannot hear Taps without tears springing to my eyes.

I remembered that my breath catches at every single picture of a father in uniform reuniting with a child (even more so for a mother in uniform).

I remembered that I am constantly and immeasurably astounded by the bravery it takes an individual to leave their home and risk their life in service of someone else—and of the strength it takes to be the mother or father, wife or husband, the child, left behind to wait and worry and hope and pray.

Last week, our country exercised its right to vote. Essentially, we opened ourselves up to a silent and bloodless coup—as we do every four years. We said yes or no to the existing government, and we shifted power between individuals. We spoke our thoughts and opinions—sometimes in secret ballot and sometimes very, very publicly on every available social media channel—and we did so without fear of reprisal.

We didn’t fear that we would be arrested for disagreeing with the governing party. We didn’t have to worry about car bombs in the streets on the way to the ballot box. We didn’t have to live with the specter of a military coup if someone disliked the outcome.

Today, individuals in some 20 states filed petitions—with the White House, no less—for their states to secede from the United States of America. I don’t agree with those people, nor do I think their states are going anywhere—but what a radical notion that they have such a freedom.

For my many freedoms—

·      the freedom to write what I think
·      the freedom to worship as I will
·      the freedom to learn (and to be a woman with a college degree)
·      the freedom to marry who I love
·      the freedom to raise my child in relative peace and safety

—for that, I thank all of our men and women in the military, today, yesterday and tomorrow, for your sacrifice and your service.

A ribbon, a flag, cannot convey my appreciation—hopefully my words do.