Yesterday was Memorial Day here in the USA. Historically, for me that has meant a day off of work, perhaps a barbecue with family and/or friends, and maybe some fireworks somewhere. When I was younger there might have been a parade. It was festive, relaxing, and fun.
This Memorial Day, I decided to sit down and really reflect on what it means to me to remember the service men and women of this country. I began by searching my memory banks of family and friends for all the people I know who have gone into service. It turns out the list was a lot longer than I originally thought it would be.
It starts with my grandfather, who was a member of the cavalry. I actually still have his belt from that time, stored away in my keepsake trunk. It’s dry and tattered, and I love it. He was a good man, who did his best by his family, and I loved his laugh.
Beyond my grandfather, I have cousins, friends, friends of friends, ex-boyfriends, former classmates, and other relatives who have signed up to serve at one time or another. It seems that at most stages of my life I’ve known someone who has served my country. What a remarkable thing, considering the draft was eliminated shortly after I was born.
I then reflected on a couple of these people in particular, and how I feel about their decision to sign up for such an unknowable endeavor. You see, the thing is, when you sign up for service, if something happens, you go. It’s not optional. You can’t suddenly decide you don’t want to be in a war, tired and hungry, scared and homesick. You go. Whether you feel ready or not, whether you want to or not, whether you agree with it or not – you go.
And that’s what struck me the most when I truly sat down to think about the decision to join the armed forces. The sacrifice is not only in the loss of life that we hear about with each operation, but it’s in the willingness to sign up without any guarantee of what that ultimately means. There is no way to know that when you enlist there won’t be a war the following day. You can hope there isn’t, but there’s no promise. There’s only the promise you have made on the day you decided to serve: that you will go, no matter what. And that, to me, is what’s most extraordinary.
I can’t think of any other decision that is so filled with faith and hope. To agree to do something, without truly knowing what that may entail, is the greatest leap of faith I can imagine. For that reason (and so many more) I sit in awe and deep gratitude for those who have made the decision to serve their country. Thank you. xo