Posted by lex, on November 12, 2007
Well, if you’re lucky like me you’re enjoying a long weekend courtesy of those who went before, those who answered their country’s call, who exposed themselves to the bullets and the bomb bursts so that we could enjoy that long weekend in freedom and security. Most of you are clear thinking, kind hearted people, so I’m sure you spared a moment of your time this weekend to give thanks in the way you find best – there’s so much we take for granted.
This weekend in the Bay Area, thousands turned out alongside our own SJ Bill to hear the Secretary of the Navy speak at the dedication of a statue in Cupertino. This statue depicts native son Matthew Axelson and Floridian James Suh, Navy SEALs who perished on the worst day in history for naval special warfare.
We’re very lucky to have had such men to fight for us in a far place – men like Axelson, whose family had been here for generations, and men like Suh, whose parents came to these shores from Korea, having seen close up the kinds of people that America produces.
We’re lucky to have people over there fighting for us still, who keep going and returning and going back again, even seeing at first hand the things that the rest of us decide whether or not we want to see at a far remove simply by using the TV remote control. Even that freedom they purchased for us.
Most of them will come back to us healthy and whole in time, and we’ll buy them a beer at the VFW and send them along their way with the GI Bill and our thanks. Some will come back to us in flag covered caskets, and we will render them our most solemn honors, add their number to the list and bury them in the cold ground – we’ll think no more on them until Memorial Day, and then only in a generalized kind of way. Except for their families of course, for whom no special day of remembrance will ever be required. Some very few will be immortalized in statuary, in representation of all the others, so that those who follow after will know that there were once ordinary men who did extraordinary things.
There is a third category of servicemen of course, neither the wholly healthy nor the wholly destroyed, the ones who come back to us physically reduced. Strong men and women who stood up when the call came, marched towards the sound of the guns and who now recuperate in hospital beds somewhere, trying to imagine their own existence in the world in the context of an eternal prosthetic. We will see them in the airports and public avenues – young men with short hair in wheel chairs. Some of them will look up at us with pained and baffled expressions, almost daring us to say that whatever we have accomplished in the world is worth what they will have to continue to bear. They shake us to the core and we walk by, grateful in a guilty way to have the option of doing s0 – a thing which a moment before we had taken for granted. Their own choices are more constrained. Not for them the solemn ceremonies and 21-gun salutes. Nor yet the cotton chinos and the university coeds.
There are many things that we as a country ought to collectively do for our veterans, but many things that we as individuals can do to help as well. One of the endearing features of our Republic has always been the fact that our public charity is exceeded by our private contributions – we give twice.
The Valour-IT fund raising drive ends today and Team Navy certainly has room to improve our performance. We’re computer people, you and I, or else we wouldn’t be here. There are young folks at Walter Reed and Balboa who are lying in their hospital beds or recovery rooms who could use a voice-activated laptop to reconnect with the world in the way that you and I take for granted. Like so many other things.