As it does every year on this day, my heart and my thoughts rest with my fellow Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines... many of whom made the ultimate sacrifice and, as a result, were never able to return home to their loved ones, never able to realize their dreams, and were never able to see the good that their particular sacrifice accomplished for those of us fortunate enough to see another day.
I think of all of the lives that have been lost in service to this country, but particularly I think of those who I knew personally. In my mind's eye, I still see the moment of many of their deaths as it plays out over and over. I question whether their was anything I could have done to change the fact that they died... and I feel the inevitable pang of guilt for having thought the cowardly "I'm glad that that wasn't me!" thought... (followed immediately by the "What the fuck is wrong with you?!" thought...).
Some didn't die outright. One of my comrades was shot through the neck and paralyzed from the neck down. Never again would he be able to hug or make love to his wife, hold his children, pet a cat, or pick a flower. Every time I do these things, my thoughts creep over to him, and I silently thank him.
It is chiefly due to the fact that these brave men and women were willing to fight and to die, if necessary, for this country that we are all able to enjoy the wealth, peace, and happiness that we do. Most enjoy these benefits without ever thinking of the sacrifices that made it possible for them to have what they have.
Every moment of our lives, from the moment of our birth and continuing on to this very moment, members of our nation's military have been watching over and safeguarding each and every one of us. Most of us never give this a thought, or aren't aware that our nation's military is constantly guarding our freedom and safety. To most soldiers, that's okay. They go on doing their jobs in the knowledge that they are performing a valuable, in often unrecognized, service to their country.
For a number of years, I had the honor to serve, first as an Airman, and later as a Soldier, and I regard my memories of those times as a particularly valued treasure. I did my part, to the best of my abilities, and I would like to think that I did it well. I respected my fellow soldiers and earned their respect in turn, and I made my own personal sacrifices during my time as a soldier, though I never sacrificed nearly so much as many others have...
To each and every one of my Brothers and Sisters in Arms, I say "Thank You!"
Thank you so much for your service, your dedication, your willingness to do whatever it takes to keep us all safe. Thank you for giving me a home and a family for so many years, and for helping me to become who and what I am. Thank you for all of the missed family events, for the long hours, agonizing training, and for the loss of so many of the personal freedoms that the rest of us take for granted. Thank you for all of the small difficulties, as well as for all of the great ones. Thank you for being Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines... and thank you for letting me be a part of you for a while.
We owe you so much... Thank You.