In basic training way back when I was just a wee little private, we used to sing cadences. Most of them centered around our women, and how some guy named Jody was having the time of his life. The rest were usually about blood, guts, glory, and hips big as battleships. One that I particularly had the refrain of:
"Some say freedom is free, but I tend to disagree. Some say freedom is won, through the barrel of a gun."
Now, I realize a number of people in these United States completely disagree with this idea, and as much as I'd love to think the world is sunshine, gummi-bears, and rosebushes, I know it's not. The sad fact is the Gummi-bears have gone on strike after decades of being offered only in basic colors. The sun is angry for being blamed for skin cancer, drought, famine, global warming, polar bear depopulation, and generally just being a hotheaded kinda guy. And finally rosebushes are protesting that early February massacre they are forced to endure every year. Point being, the world is not perfect as it is.
Today we take a moment to remember why we live the way we do. As this past week has shown, like it or not, people will have their say. People who may never contribute one iota to society have just as much of a say as those who gave all. This is because someone came before you, and made sure it was so. Centuries ago, when the British ruled the colonies, somebody was willing to step forward and say "I will go." Less than a century ago as the world watched in Europe, somebody else came forward and proclaimed "I will go." Again at mid century an American stood up and said "send me." Through Korea and Southeast asia, American's stood up and said "I too will go." Now at the beginning of another century, Americans are still standing up and saying "I'm ready." In almost every case, the enemy was not at the gates, yet still we went.
These men and women who stood ready, who stand ready, and who wait their turn all do it for their own reasons. Be they noble, monetary, or patriotic, still they stand. They go when asked, whether they agree or not. When they return, they may or may not even know why they went. They may not return. The price paid to them for following this call? It might be glory, it might be money, it might be a wheelchair, it may never be paid. The purchase made? That goes to us all.
The purchase was your right to continue living the way you do. Some people may feel we shouldn't be involved wherever we are. They may be right, they may be wrong. Because our military IS involved, we will never know "what would have been." We will never know if maybe a small nuclear attack was thwarted in some desolate cave in Afghanistan. We'll never know if some key player in a major biological warfare lab was taken down in Iraq. All we'll know is what we see now, and what we think it means. I often tell people to remember, we don't have all the information. CNN and Fox news don't have all the information. Whether we deploy or not is a decision made by people who DO have all the information, or at least have as much as they can get at the time. The sad fact is, those who deploy are the ones who bear the burden of circumstance. We can only hope they were used to further the greater good.
As most of you know, I'm a 2nd year medical student missing an arm and a whole lot of other stuff wrong you can't see. What many people don't know was that I COULD have not gone. I could have stayed here, joined the med school class that's now ahead of me, and maybe be better off for it. At the least, I'd still have a hand provided something else didn't happen. I'd still be in the military, working towards being a doc, and I doubt anyone would have faulted me for it. However, when the call came, I didn't. I stood up and said "I can go."
Today, take a moment just to say thank you to some vet. Whether they went or not, say thanks. Even if you despise the military, remember that it is their willingness to go that allows you to keep on despising them. Also remember, today is just the day we "officially" remember our vets. Remember that their job is not one day a year.
Finally.... to ETSU's NPR radio station 89.5 WETS, who decided at 12:07 today to play some good anti-military music, I'd appreciate it if you return my calls. While I do not expect you to play nationalistic music or anything, have a little respect.
"We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.”