For most Americans yesterday was a day of rest. A day of reflection. Many of us were hurrying around after enjoying the weekend filled with family and friends huddled around grilled meats and cold beer thanks to those who we'll never see nor hear about unless their name and face show up during the six o'clock news to report their death in the Nuristan providence of Afghanistan as a result of a war that no two people can explain in exact words as to why we are there.
That is now, even while considering myself a grown man physically and somewhat finanically since there's a mortgage, car payment, and a weekly paycheck from a corporation where many of you drop by to get low prices on toilet paper, I still couldn't go up to my father and ask why he chose to serve our country in the manner he did. Personally that was not a choice since my deaf ears and near blind eye prevented any notion of donning the eagle, globe, and anchor like my father, three uncles, grandfather, and great-grandfather before him. Instead I silently salute these men who flew over Hanoi, or dug foxholes deep in Korea with no other political gambit in mind other than "save our country". Soliders do not have luxury of knowing the why they are there, nor are they supposed to question it (you could watch a scene from "A Few Good Men" with Tom Cruise going on about disobeying a direct order and it's importance) unless there's a man or woman in fatigues nearby to cite references for you in perfect dictation.
These soliders live by the Code of Conduct, where they voluntarily give their lives so that people like me could freely take yesterday and bike down a clean back path to a sand filled park on a day that was meant to be spent outdoors. To watch two kids huddle near a dirt patch, crouching down low to examine the lengthy earthworm and its slow movement in the black earth. The freedom to fill it with school, work, a second job, and family time because men and women of our country decided in their life to kiss their loved ones good bye in order me to make those choices.
"I choose" is a short but powerful saying. One that people don't always take a step back and see that option is available to them but it's there. You choose to work that second job until 4am, so that your kids can have that private school education and learn a second language or get prepped to enter a better college before being able to cut their own steak. You choose to sit on the couch while wanting a better figure. You choose to work in a job where many other depend on your innovation, your leadership, your time. Americans get those choices because there are those who operate with little more than a name patch and a symbol of rank around the world to give us those choices.
For that I am graceful for the men and women across the nation who serve and die for our country and if I was a praying man, I'd send one your ways to help your safe return so that you can enjoy the sunshine on a park bench while watching the lives of people you gave those freedoms to.