My Memorial Day Musings

As we take this day to remember those that have lost their lives in service to our country, let us not forget what they died for – our security, upholding our constitutional rights, our continued freedom.  In fact, let us remember this each and every day, and count our blessings.  Let us remember to respect the rights and freedoms of our fellow citizens.  Not just in our words, but let us reflect this in our actions.

And let us remember and support those still in service today.

I had been contributing to occasional care packages for the troops for years, but somehow, that just didn’t seem enough to me, and about a year ago, I searched for a way to do more.  I found the Adopt A U.S. Soldier program.

AAUSS connects deployed military service members with volunteer supporters who commit to writing regular letters to their adoptee(s).  While the title says “soldier”, service members from any branch of the military are welcome to sign up for adoption, and they do.  We can also send care packages, which are very much appreciated by our troops, but not required of an AAUSS supporter.  It is understood that not everyone can afford to send care packages.  Personally, I’ve found a way to fit an occasional care package in my budget.  I can stand to do without some little luxuries I might want, in order to send my soldiers a few things they really need, and a few “just for fun” items they will enjoy.

If there’s one theme that rings true, feedback from adoptees tells us that they love getting mail while deployed.  Some don’t get regular letters from family or friends back home, and the fact that total strangers adopt them and take time out of our busy schedules to support them speaks volumes.  Even when we’re just writing to them about our mundane lives here at home – our simple pleasures, what we do for work or study in school, the family vacation, the antics of our children and/or pets, the interests and hobbies we pursue, asking them some questions about their lives and their personal interests.  It tells them that we care, that we appreciate them, and that they are not forgotten.  It tells them that we are thankful for our lives that they work so hard to protect.

My current soldier is from Wisconsin and is a big Green Bay Packers fan.  In the first care package I sent him, after our exchanging brief introduction emails, and my having sent him a few snail mail letters, I included some granola bars, cookies, some energy drink powdered mixes, a Star Wars puzzle from the dollar store with a note saying “May the Force be with you.”, and a few other things I’ve forgotten now. I also tucked in a little Green Bay fan pack I found for a few bucks that included a banner, a button, and a bumper sticker.  This email I got from him shows that little tastes of home mean the world to our troops:

Good Morning From Afghanistan, 

I do not have that much time to write, but I wanted to just shoot you this quick e-mail to let you know that I received your package. We have been away from base for what seems like forever now, and our mail guy brought out packages to us and yours was there. You are amazing! The treats are always nice, the puzzle is helping keep me sane with something to do, and the Green Bay Packers stuff…..you are the coolest! It shows that you are not someone that just does this, but someone that listens and cares! We are heading back to our base in a few days and I will try to write more then. I just borrowed someone’s computer to send this out to you. Again, thank you. You lifted my spirits and are helping the days go by a little bit better!  Thanks, SGT A.B.”
 

The forums on the AAUSS website provide a place for supporters to share information and support ideas, to chit chat with each other, and to share their joy when they hear from their adoptee(s).  Though let me make this clear, AAUSS is not a pen pal program. Our adoptees are not required to write back to us.  They are in a war zone where their work, and their own health and safety are top priorities. We understand this, and keep on supporting just the same.  Some of them just don’t have the time or the means to respond via email or snail mail.  

But many do reach out to their supporters when they can.  My last soldier was what we call a “silent soldier” – remotely stationed, likely with no access to email, and probably not much time to just take a break and get some rest, let alone the time to hand-write letters.  When I’ve got a silent soldier, it is the other supporters that keep me motivated and inspired – those that hear from their adoptees and share some feedback and their own happiness at having received it.

My only regret is that I did not find this program sooner.  This program has helped me as much as it helps those we support.  I remember every day to smile and be thankful for what I have.  I remember that kindness matters.  I remember that while I am only one person, I can, and do, make a difference.

This weekend, I’ve seen a lot of words and pictures about Memorial Day being posted to Facebook and Twitter.  While that is nice, and I have shared some via social media as well, I implore you to remember that action speaks louder than words.  Please consider finding a way to truly honor our military men and women (and don’t forget our military dogs!)  AAUSS, while I highly recommend the experience, isn’t the only program out there that helps you to help them.  There are many, so take a look around and see what you can do.

Other programs that don’t require lengthy commitments I’ve personally utilized are Holiday Mail for Heros, and Cup of Joe for a Joe through Green Beans Coffee.

Now, I’m probably going to piss a few people off with my next thoughts that have been rattling around my brain for some time, but I feel the need to share them.  And you know what?  I can, because I have the freedom to express myself and to stand up for what I believe in.

Our service members, as individuals, they might not be just like you or me. For example:

Some are pagan.

Photo credit – Lodge Yggdrasill -Sgt. Jason A. Schumann was killed May 19, 2007 when a bomb exploded near his vehicle in Ad Diwaniyah, Iraq, about 100 miles west of Baghdad. Just 23 years old when he died, he left behind a wife and a son.

Some are gay.

Vietnam Vets

What they all have in common is that they’ve worked hard, they’ve fought, they’ve sacrificed, and they continue to do so, for YOU and ME, for our rights to be who we are, to hold our own beliefs, to make our own life choices.  

I have no issues with the words, “God Bless America.”  But let’s be honest, there is zero proof that one man named Jesus died on a cross for my supposed “sins”, while there is plenty of proof that MANY have died defending my constitutional rights and freedoms.

I beg you, Americans, to find a way to be tolerant of and respectful of your fellow human beings, including those who are not just like you. In the words of Josh Gates, author of my favorite book, “Beyond customs and norms and wildly variant beliefs, we all generally laugh, cry, and make our way along the dusty road of life in pretty much the same way.”  We’re not all that different, and we can coexist.  For the love of our country, please people, stop fighting against equal rights and our freedoms.

Let us truly honor those we remember on Memorial Day and what they’ve stood and sacrificed for.

Lastly, I’d like to share this powerful video and song. “Blessed” by Beau Davidson  (transcribed below due to lack of proper closed captioning.)  On this day, I remember that I am truly blessed, and I remember who I have to thank for many of my blessings.

What is courage? What is honor? Are these words or just ideals long forgotten?  What is duty? What is glory? Are they just written down in some old story?

“My fondest memory of World War II was the day when victory was declared over the axes.” ~ Captain Robert Noble

“A good American cannot live without freedom. It’s worth fightin’ for.” ~ Sergeant David D. Hall, Korean War

When we hear a word like freedom, do we know what it really means?                 Or do we take it all for granted, living like kings and queens?

We are blessed to live in freedom. Blessed to live in peace. Blessed with food and shelter. Blessed with life on lease. Blessed to gather freely. Blessed to have a voice. Blessed that someone braver fought so we could have a choice. We are blessed. Oh, we are blessed.

“We have the opportunity here in the United States of America to be what we wanna be.”  ~ Colonel Earnie Grinder, Vietnam War

“I’ve been to several countries all over the world. And there’s nowhere in the world like it is here in this country.” ~ Colonel Willard Finch, Vietnam War

Is faith a notion? Or fear of hell? Or have we lost our very faith in faith itself?     Is it our rock? Or is it madness? Or do we cling to it like rain in times of sadness?

“Freedom is not just a concept. I think it’s a way to live, and it’s something we can give.” ~ Master SGT Donald R. Hall, Desert Shield / Desert Storm

“It’s always been a family tradition in my family, and just to be a representative of the best country the world has ever known is my true blessing.”   ~ Master SGT Ronald F. Hartley, Iraqi Freedom / Enduring Freedom

“We got guys who serve from Pennsylvania, New York, Kentucky, Tennessee, and they come together and become one of the greatest fighting forces that’s ever existed.  You wouldn’t have had those friends, but they would lay down their life for you.”  ~ SGT Stephen Cochran, Iraq Freedom / Enduring Freedom

It is easy to remember, but easy to forget, the beauty of our country and the simple gifts we get.

‘Cuz we are blessed to live in freedom. Blessed to live in peace. Blessed with food and shelter. Blessed with life on lease. Blessed to gather freely. Blessed to have a voice. Blessed that someone braver fought so we could have a choice. We are blessed. Oh, we are blessed.

(Repeat chorus)

“Blessing”, “Unique”, “Example”, “Happiness”, “I’m honored”, “Sacrifice”, “Most Blessed” ~ the various speakers

(Repeat chorus)

We are blessed!

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