FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA
The words Thank you for your service are powerful words, and when they are used to thank a service man or woman or veteran for their service and sacrifice for our country, they never fall on deaf ears. I just wish there were stronger words to offer them.
Today is Memorial Day 2019. It is a day to honor our fallen soldiers, but every day is a good day to honor our veterans as well. It is also known as Decoration Day, in honor also of our loved ones who have passed. I don’t normally post on Monday evenings, but I have been away for a week of vacation at one of our shining seas, and I feel compelled to write. Having seen parts of our country that I never have, my mind has been expanded. And, once the human mind has been expanded, one should do all they can to keep it that way.
Our trip took us to the southeastern United States, a part of the country rich with history; ripe with insight to offer anyone who opens their mind to it. We toured an antebellum mansion, taking in its grandeur and learning of its history from the knowledgeable tour guide. We took the driving tour of several others around this relatively small historic town.
The beauty of these mansions could not be denied. What was apparently denied, or at least not overtly acknowledged in the tour, was the travesty of the extreme racial injustice perpetrated in the name of slavery that allowed these wealthy landowners to amass incredible wealth, affording them this lifestyle.
As I age, I am increasingly grateful for the liberty in all its forms I am privileged to enjoy. I have never known anything but complete freedom to do as I please.
“It’s a free country,” was a phrase I recall hearing from other children, and using it as a child, not really having a clue what it really meant at its deepest level. It was used as defense when we needed to justify an action that another child may not have liked.
It is indeed a free country, and for that, we have our military—past and present—to thank.
“Thank you for your service,” I am offering to anyone who did, or currently does defend our country, no matter what position they held/hold in the military. I am so grateful. I wish I had stronger words.
I spent much of my highway time on the trip in the back seat of the car while my husband drove and our youngest son rode shotgun. I set up camp back there with books, magazines, my Kindle, a pillow and blanket, as well as colored pencils and markers to go with the color book, and a giant bag of road trip snacks. With these essentials in my little nest, my life on the road was good. My sisters were the only thing I wanted to bring, but couldn’t. Somewhere along the way, I sent them this picture:
At the last moment before I left home, I grabbed a book I had only just started, but put aside for whatever reason, probably to read the other dozen or so I had already started before that one. Something told me to grab it, so I did.
My firstborn shares my love of sociology, and he had this book as required reading for one of his classes. I had heard of it, so when I saw it in his stack, I borrowed it.
Like traveling to a new place, some books have the power to expand the mind. This one did for me. I once heard that we should not say we are going to read a book; rather, we are going to visit a book.
This was a wonderful visit, with some of the material making me focus more strongly on the power of kinship that our United States—or any country’s—military has on its members. The feelings of belonging, responsibility and contribution to the country usually overpower the feelings of fear, self-centeredness or apathy, thus forging the bonds of concern, care and allegiance most soldiers have toward each other, as well as toward their country.
One point in the book—as I understand it—is that many soldiers actually miss combat when they return home. These strong bonds are not felt in the civilian life, and they feel alone and misunderstood among their families and society as a whole.
The power of the group cannot be denied. This is the essence of the study of sociology, which is probably why this book appealed to me. I didn’t fully realize the power of the military group. I will likely never realize the sacrifices they made for me, and for all of us in this free country.
Another awareness I took away from the book is that while the thank you for your service is the right thing to say, we should also strive to find more ways for veterans to contribute in the work force, because most of them continue to feel the strong need to make a difference for the group.
Humans are like that, especially in times of crisis. We bond together as a whole to get through hardships and crises, then go back to our own relatively solitary existence. Unfortunately, there is a dire need, but as an affirmation of the good that exists in the human soul, many people in the Midwest are joining forces and helping each other through the flooding that is currently devasting much of my state of Kansas, and much of Missouri and Oklahoma as well. This was taken out the car window on the way home Sunday south of Tulsa:
The mighty Mississippi was flooding as well.
Getting through hard times with the help of friends and even strangers keeps my faith in humanity going, even in my darkest days. Speaking for myself, I leaned on my immediate family when we lost our parents, but the outpouring of love and support I felt from friends, and even people I didn’t know got me through. May anyone who has been devastated by the flooding feel this love and support as well.
I saw this sight on my porch first thing this morning:
It was as if the live bird was telling the ceramic bird he had the power to simply fly away, so why not just take off? “Why are you just sitting there like that when you can fly wherever you want to?” it seemed to say.
It reminded me of the picture I took outside our fourth-floor hotel window on the second leg of our trip in Natchez, Mississippi. The mighty Mississippi River is in the background, with the bridge from Louisiana pictured.
The metaphor of the bird on the wire under the United States flag silhouetted against the beautiful sunset struck me so profoundly, and still does.
In this historic town where slavery once was the order of the day, freedom should carry a more direct meaning for all of us. Thanks to the sacrifices of our military, we all can fly away almost as easily as the bird on the wire, or the bird on my porch.
Too many of us—myself included at times—remain enslaved only by our own thoughts and fears, thus paralyzing us from taking off and finding the freedom we yearn for. We are like the ceramic bird, sitting there frozen.
May the sacrifices of our soldiers and veterans be the voice that reminds you that it is indeed a free country, and you do have more power to fly than you may think.
To all veterans and to current members of our military, THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE. I wish I had stronger words.
The shining sea at Gulf Shores, Alabama
* Sebastian Junger, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging. Copyright 2016. Hachette Book Group, New York, New York.
Available online and in bookstores as well–I highly recommend visiting this book.