Happy Veteran’s Day: an Amazing Sacrifice

Happy Veteran’s Day! Aren’t our troops just amazing? I mean, it’s a tough decision to give up years or decades of your life to serving your country, protecting those less fortunate, and training to defend every one of our lives. While I personally have not served (no branch would
take me with all my ailments!), many of my friends and relatives have both enlisted and are Academy graduates. And they clearly do a great job, because we’re still alive today! Without having a war on our turf in over half a century! That’s pretty amazing.

My good friend Alyssa wrote an amazing testimonial from her perspective that I want to share with all of you.

The average civilian cannot even begin to comprehend what it means to be an American soldier. Everybody knows the textbook answers: soldiers are frequently away from home, miss holidays and birthdays, frequently have to move, are in dangerous situations…etc, etc. But what most people do not realize is how being in the military, whether it’s just for one enlistment or for life shapes who a person is down to their core. Most people have the luxury of leaving their work life and it’s issue at the door when they come home. Military members do not have that luxury. They constantly live in the fear, or the hope that they will get a phone call any day asking them to uproot their life and their family to another city, state, or country. They constantly live with the joyful or scarring memories of their military experience that can, with one thought, ruin their day, or enlighten it. A soldier has to get used to talking about topics he never thought would be casual conversation, like how often he updates his will. A soldier has to get use to ignoring the feelings of guilt when someone asks him when the last time he saw his child or mother or spouse was. Being in the military means you have to grow accustomed to a lifestyle where tomorrow and what that day may bring is never guaranteed, never can be predicted. Tomorrow could mean the end of your life because your job brought you to a dangerous war zone. Tomorrow could mean you finally got those orders to be stationed at a base near home. Tomorrow could mean your wife or girlfriend finally leaves you because she cannot handle the stress of you being gone so often. Tomorrow could mean that your best friend just got orders to ship to a new base, or that a new soldier just arrived to your workforce that you really get along well with. Tomorrow could mean reentering the civilian world, learning how to enjoy hot showers and real meals and quiet and being able to wear jeans and a t-shirt again. Everyday, not just on Veterans Day should Americans remind themselves that being in the military is not just a job, it’s a lifestyle, it governs every action and impacts every thought that a soldier has. Being in the military is by far the most underappreciated and misunderstood job out of any occupation. A soldier’s willingness to sacrifice his family, his home, his children and spouse, his comfort, his health and perhaps his life is what keeps this country whole. Without the threat of one of the most powerful military forces in the world, America might as well strap a bull’s-eye on her back.

This actually made me tear up as I read and then re-typed it in here. How amazing. I’ve heard stories about the Vietnam war, when all of the college students were rioting and protesting the soldiers, how the ones who were abroad came back to their homes and families, how devastated they were. Not that the war had been devastating (although that was certainly true), but that as hard as it had been, as horrible as the things were that soldiers had to
face, what was truly  hard was coming back and finding that your whole country had turned its back on you. They didn’t feel as though the protesters were protesting the war, but they took it personally. As if giving up their lives and sanity in many cases was their fault. Those protesters left all of the responsibility of the war not on the government leaders, but on the individual soldiers who gave everything they knew how in order to protect our country and those who were less fortunate than us. Talk about gratitude.

Likewise, I think we as a society today can do the same thing. When I talk to family members and friends who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, they know the good they’re doing. They see it first-hand. They see the little children running up to them in the streets, thanking them for saving their lives, building schools, establishing laws that hopefully won’t crumble beneath the extremists. That’s something they are proud of. But when we have the audacity to criticize the fact that it’s inconveniencing us to have them gone, or that the military leaders are cruel to have the soldiers do their duty, how does that help them? It’s our support and love that makes it worth it. I mean, who wants to save a country full of ungrateful people – like we can all be at times? It’s not us out there, facing death each day, it’s them. It’s not their choice whether to go to war or not, whether to stay in Iraq or not, but somehow they do it anyway. Giving their lives to this service. How hard is it to simply say, “good job, we appreciate it”, or send a card once in a while?

Another friend of mine, Tina, who is also a member of ROTC, also wrote about this holiday:

My contract with the Army made me look into my own life, my future, but also other fellow Armed Forces soldiers around me. When I am walking on campus in my uniform, I often get approached by veterans inquiring about ROTC. I have learned that many of these veterans who are returning to school, were once decorated, well-distinguished soldiers who were out there fighting on behalf of the American people in Iraq and Afghanistan. These individuals’ low-key, respectful demeanors humbled me greatly! I became acutely aware that many of these former soldiers just want to lead a simple civilian life after having served their time with the Army. I believe that despite what many Americans will say and think about the current state of the government, economy, country’s leadership, this and that, there is almost no question or debate about the level of faith and commitment that a lot of our veterans put forth in ultimately protecting US and keeping US safe! I have a lot of respect for our veterans as well as those who are still actively serving. Veterans are some of the most honorable and humbling individuals that I have gotten to know! Kudos to their hard work and dedication and also, Kudos to my university for creating a strong support system here on campus for our veterans!

Recently a family friend told me of a campaign called Candy for the Troops, where after Halloween families would send candy they collected to an organization that would ten organize and pass it on to “adopt” a soldier. How creative! I mean, we don’t really need pounds of candy. Or maybe we have some left over after passing it out, and shouldn’t overstep our diet. Either day, I’m sure a piece of chocolate to a soldier in Iraq is much more meaningful than the ten we eat in bed before we go to sleep. Other organizations have been knitting blankets and sending them overseas. Now we all know there’s no way it’s cold enough to need them, but how encouraging to know that someone is thinking about what you’re doing and your mission to serve.

I know that many of us don’t necessarily believe in the “war,” but we do believe in our country, in our men, and in their lives. Do we want their sacrifice to be for nothing? What if it was your son or daughter who was giving up his or her life? Would it make you feel any different? So I urge you this Veteran’s Day to search your heart and find compassion for the men and women who think about you and support you every minute of their lives. If, today, you live in a free country, thank a veteran.

Happy Veteran’s Day to you too, soldiers. Keep doing a great job 🙂

A Bit of Halloween

So I realize it’s not Halloween. Yes, I do have a working calendar. However..I was a little busy toward the end of October what with me turning 21 and all that jazz. Family was also in town so it was a lovely occasion. It was also snowing so…that was a little distracting. I must say, I’m so used to having the day after Halloween off from my school days that working was a little difficult – although it’s not like I went out and trick or treated in the freezing weather anyway!

So I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the hugest fan of Halloween. It just seems…overdone. When you have to spend upwards of $60 every year for a costume…it seems that the whole point of the holiday has gone by the wayside. But I suppose that happens as traditions mix, cultures change, and time goes on. So I’m not writing this to slap anyone on the wrist for not being super-Halloweenish. Because that’s okay. In fact…if we skipped the whole holiday I personally wouldn’t miss it! I mean, no one really needs pounds of candy, right!?

I think though, there is something special about Halloween. In lieu of All Hallows Eve, our culture certainly doesn’t overlook the thin line or small break in the rift of time, of the dead and the living. It’s a holiday where we delve into perhaps the most frightening thing of all – death and what it means to us. Zombies and Vampires show us that we fear death to such a degree that we would perhaps do anything, sell our souls to have one more day on Earth. This is a sobering thought. For a country that is known as a Christian Nation…we certainly do take this fear to an unspiritual level.

That’s all the thoughts I really have off of the top of my head about Halloween. I told you..not my favorite holiday, but I do like it because it’s in the fall 🙂 And I couldn’t very well skip a holiday!

p.s. what’s all this blasphemy about trunk-o-treating!?!? talk about just giving kids candy for the sake of giving it away. let them dress up, go out and about! If you’re neighborhood’s not safe, take them to a nice town – I saw people in old Ellicott City going into the shops downtown all dressed up, like a parade, it was adorable!

Ode to Fall

Autumn. The sun shines through the leaves as they change colors, turning as a deep blood orange, rays of warmth through the coldness of winter. The in-between. There is something beautiful about this time, when life seems to hang like a fine thread, embracing both the ice of winter and the warmth of summer, and somehow finding both. And neither. Where birds still sing to you, trying to wake you up to their beautiful song instead of your alarm clock, a reminder that life goes on, whether you are part of it or not. But you get up, because you inherently desire to embrace the last vestiges of warm weather. A reminder that you’re still clinging on to warm, lazy summer nights. But not in fall. The mornings are cool reminders of the day ahead of you, the bustling of the city streets, people walking past you, pulling at their jackets and sweaters to keep them warm. When it rains you can see your breath, you can smell the snow in the air. When you go hiking the air is crisp and fresh, and you are surrounded by beautiful trees, and the sounds of birds chirping in the distance. The valley below looks warm and inviting, the trees a bright fire that grows beneath your feet. There’s something about the cool fall weather that makes you feel so pensive. Maybe it’s because you can feel the earth changing, growing older, or maybe it’s because at the end of a long day, you can simply wrap yourself up in a nice, down blanket, open a good book, and sip some tea. Watching the leaves fall down around you. Because it’s Fall.

“Oh Columbus, Our Hero!”

Now let’s not all get up in arms over this title. While to some this holiday represents a day off, being with family, or just some much-needed alone time, others wonder why we may celebrate it at all. As a history buff, I generally feel like knowing the most information about a person whose life you’re celebrating is important. So while I sit here, at work while everyone else has the day off, I am going to reflect on the holiday and what it means for us Americans.

Great lookin' guy, right?

Christopher Columbus, born 1451 in Genoa, was a controversial figure to say the least. Let’s start off by the fact that a man from an Italian province went to work for the Spanish – but hey, we all need jobs wherever we can get them, right? What’s ironic is that he’s most celebrated for the founding of the Americas. But let’s discuss how tenuous this discovery really was. First of all, America is not (I repeat, NOT) India. We don’t grow those spices, and we may in fact be on the opposite side of the world. But I digress, I’ll give Columbus that pass. So when he realized his total and complete error in his JOB of exploration, he had to somehow make up for it. So he usurped the role of discovering America from Leif Ericson (who found it 500 years earlier…got no credit…), and then claimed every piece of land he found as property now belonging to the Spanish.

Not only did he decide that the indigenous peoples of the Americas had nothing to offer the Spanish civilization culturally, but he then was responsible for the mass murders of native Americans wherever he went. Now it’s been brought to my attention (by wikipedia, no less) that Columbus’s great claim to fame was not that he found the Americas first, but that he stayed. HAH. I have to laugh to keep from crying here. I mean, it’s kind of like celebrating Hitler. Now, you may argue that this view is a little extreme – “After all,” you say, “He linked us up with the Europeans, which was pretty awesome.” Yes, and for that the government honors his life by giving everyone (except some unlucky few…) the day off – I suppose to go be like Columbus and kill a few million people with this newly found free time. But. Please don’t. Because as much as he was a horrible man in many situations (and he certainly was eventually found out by the Spanish government), without him, most of us (in fact, almost all of us) wouldn’t be here today. It’s through the people like Columbus, who do all the dirty work, that Great leaders can come in and reap the benefits. No truly great country hasn’t had moments of weakness, war, and destruction in order to keep the lifestyle they see fit.

So while you sit at home, enjoying the beautiful 80 degree weather, the sunshine, and the shopping trips you never have time for, don’t remember Columbus. Instead, remember the good things that came out of such horrible actions – because they are what really matters – besides, he’s dead.