My grandparents on my mother’s side were married in Kingman, Arizona while my grandpa was in the service. They wrote letters every day while he was gone. Once, he couldn’t find any paper, so he wrote to her on toilet paper. She went to AZ, married him, spent a short honeymoon with him in Las Vegas and returned home alone while he finished out his time. He trained to be a gunner, but thankfully never had to go to war… although he lived through many.
My dad’s father served in the Korean conflict. He recalls leaving his foxhole once to go get food. When he returned, the foxhole had been hit and his buddy was gone. He was never quite the same after Korea. It’s hard to imagine… had Grandpa been in the foxhole instead, I wouldn’t exist. How many children don’t exist because someone was in the foxhole at the wrong time?
My dad signed up for the Air Force during the Vietnam War and left for basic training in the middle of his senior year of high school. They wouldn’t even let him return home for graduation. He and my mom were married in August of that same year and they moved into base housing while he was in tech school. My dad served in the Persian Gulf during both Desert Storm and Desert Shield… flying refueling tankers. I’ll never forget the day my mom and I were driving to town and we heard on the radio that a convoy had been hit and several Americans had died. I’d never heard my mom cuss before, and I’d never seen her cry and hit the steering wheel. I guess even when it’s not your own, losses during conflict are hard not to get emotional about.
My brother spent 6 years in the National Guard right after high school. His engineering and mathematical skills were put to good use when they started installing glass cockpits on the airplanes that my dad flew. We always joked that if he ever wanted to get back at my dad for something, all he’d have to do was rig the airplane that he was flying! My brother was on contract in the Middle East as a civilian when a bomb hit the complex he was working on. It was too close for comfort.
A couple years ago a distant cousin of mine was killed while deployed. They tearfully called my dad and asked if he would escort the young man’s body home. My dad says that in all of his life, this was by far the most difficult thing he has ever done.
I love the military legacy in my family. It represents the greater legacy of all those who have served our country. So much honor. So much sacrifice. May we never forget why they died, why they served, why they gave so much. May we never forget the hallowed ground on which we walk every day of our lives.
No, war is not the best option. No, fighting and dying for a country full of imperfect humans is not as glorious as some people make it out to be. No, participating in conflict is not always an easy decision for the leaders or the soldiers. But all too often it’s necessary. And when young men and women sign up, I hope to God it is because they want to love and serve the people of their country… even if we don’t love and serve them back.
As many have said, freedom isn’t free. It comes with a price. Thank you to those who have paid the price- be it time, comfort, limbs, relationships, or life- so that our child could grow up in a free country. We are proud to be Americans and will forever be proud of those who serve on our behalf.