Every Day Memorial

     I never had the honor, privilege and responsibility of serving in the U.S. military, though I come from a long line of those who have.  I certainly could have used the training and discipline 30+ years ago when I was too young and rebellious to listen to nearly anyone.  The list below tells you more about family history than about me, but we're all called to be who we are, and not someone else.  They all answered the call that was placed upon their lives over the years.  As an update from this original posting, both young men are at their respective jobs 300 miles apart in Afghanistan.

John F. Peck
     My great-great-great-great grandfather, John F. Peck served in the Civil War. My great-grandfather, Robert Wells, who graduated Buchanan high school in 1906 and became a dentist served in WWI.  My grandfather was kept home, but he had brothers who served. My father served in the Navy on the U.S.S. Enterprise.  My brother was a Navy intelligence reservist for over 20 years, while much of which his full time job was working as a civilian attached to the Navy Seals.  He and his family now serve the Defense department overseas.  My father-in-law was a surgeon in Vietnam. My mom is the "mother" off the USS Pittsburgh, an honor she takes seriously and received from her marriage to an assistant Secretary of the Navy under the first George Bush presidency.  I was there for the christening in Groton, Connecticut.

    And as I've written previously these past few months, my two oldest sons Joshua and Samuel are serving on different bases in Afghanistan for the next year.   When Josh was in Kuwait and Iraq the previous year the military allowed everyone 10 day leaves to come home during the tour, which he did.   After figuring out that costs the government over $10,000 per soldier making the trip, that option's been removed from this tour.

    Regularly friends and acquaintances ask me how I'm dealing with two sons serving in a combat zone.  Over my interesting and life of learning there's been enough valleys and mountains that I've come to firmly believe by faith that if we're were we're supposed to be, doing what we're supposed to be doing, then we'll be fine.
Picture courtesy John Madill, The Herald Palladium

    God has a plan, which doesn't by any means suggest some prosperity gospel bed of roses life experience.  That happens for some. Not for most of  us.  My wife and I love all three of our sons unequivocally and sacrifice anything  (and have) for them.  Yet boys and girls become men and women (we hope, knowing some very aged boys in my circles).  They reach a point in life where if we've given them the right examples, the right tools, and the ability to think not only with reason, but with heart, there's nothing else we can do but be available when they ask, and pray.

     I didn't really take the Memorial Day holiday off, in part because I have too much work to do for too little pay.  A common tale in this economy regardless of how many or what employers one contributes to.  But this national holiday is a lot like Christmas for me.  A once a year celebration, having nothing to do with grills and sand and water, is something I think of daily.  I appreciate Christmas and Easter in my spiritual tradition, but I do Christ much more honor by remembering and acting upon that the other 363 days of the year.

     I'm grateful to live in a country, with all it's faults, in which I can get up every morning and read whatever I want.  I have multiple sources to watch, listen and read that no government entity has sole control over. I can choose to drive anywhere I want, and crossing the borders into Indiana and Chicago doesn't require ID checks.  I can volunteer for any politician's campaign (or none) as I choose, and vote in every election for what I believe to be best without any fear of reprisals. I can freely speak my mind, my heart or both without wondering when some government entity will haul me off to jail. I do love Winston Churchill's paraphrased quote: "Democracy is the worst form of government, excepting all the others." He was right, because governments are made up of imperfect people, just as the voters aren't perfect either.  Perfection could actually be kind of boring.

    I studied overseas for a summer where soldiers on the streets carrying assault weapons wasn't an option but required for the safety of the civilian population.  That's rare here outside of national disasters and the occasional riots that occur over social conditions.  I would relish the opportunity to live for a time overseas again just for the multicultural understanding and experience that comes from living in other parts of the world. I expect that opportunity is coming again in a few years.


    But I will never take for granted the sacrifices, the courage, the commitment to service above self and taking care of those on your left and your right that the vast majority of our service people exhibit while in active duty and when they return to civilian life. I know far too many retired military who now do phenomenal work as leaders in the public, non-profit and private sectors.

   So on a daily basis, I will go out of my way to say THANK YOU to anyone I see in uniform as well as those who've ever worn it. Whether their sacrifices in serving the greater good of our country are in combat zones, and in many cases disadvantaged populations around the world, or here in a place of safety.

     Then again, that's just my opinion, and in the United States I can respect your right to feel and believe any way you want.   That's a privilege the rest of us enjoy from the service of others for more than 200 years. As an update nearing the end of August 2012, we've lost more than 30 brave soldiers in Afghanistan in the past two weeks, a cost that most of Americans don't recognize or feel and that's a shame. 2013 update: Ours sons are home.
   

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