I got word of a story yesterday that nearly broke my heart. Two U.S. Naval Academy graduates, roommates, best friends, were laid to rest side by side at Arlington National Cemetery earlier this month. (Find the story here or here.) One was a Marine killed by a sniper in Iraq 3 years ago. The other, a Navy SEAL, died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan last month. By choosing the Marine Corps and the SEALs, both young men knew very well they likely would go into harm’s way. And both did make the ultimate sacrifice.
I used to have a magnet on the back of my car that read “Freedom Isn’t Free.” I specifically chose that one instead of the popular “Support Our Troops” magnets because I think Americans too easily forget that freedom comes at a very steep cost. Because our military is all-volunteer, most Americans can go about their daily business without giving a second thought to threats to the country. Someone else will always take care of it. There is no draft, no rationing for the war effort. Most sacrifice nothing at all to keep our country safe.
Tom Brokaw wrote an op-ed in the New York Times recently pointing out that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan aren’t even issues in election campaigns this fall:
Notice anything missing on the campaign landscape? How about war? The United States is now in its ninth year of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, the longest wars in American history. Almost 5,000 men and women have been killed. More than 30,000 have been wounded, some so gravely they’re returning home to become, effectively, wards of their families and communities.
Like I said, the wars are barely on the radar of most people. The economy is what is on their minds. It affects them every day, not the wars. But those of us with a loved one serving in the military hear news such as the story of these 2 classmates and know: “There but for the grace of God go I.” How many wives, husbands, moms, and dads send their loved one off on another deployment, praying that he or she will return home unharmed this time?
Veterans Day is a few weeks away. Hopefully on at least that one day, America will take a moment away from shopping, football-watching, texting, or whatever to give thanks for those men and women who go in their place to defend freedom. Even better, pray every day for service members…and for the families they leave behind. The call of duty that our service members answer for us doesn’t wait for Veteran’s Day.