Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.
An easy childhood prayer to recite as we lay our heads down, all cozy in bed. I can't imagine how intense this simple prayer becomes for our military, serving in a foreign land, surrounded by hostility and the unknown. We are still a nation at war, and people are still dying for our freedom.
This war, whatever it's being called now, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, Operation New Dawn, has claimed nearly 5,000 innocent peoples' lives who volunteered to fight for our freedom. How can we ever possibly thank them enough? Do we go the extra mile to let their family members know how grateful we are? Are we providing these families all the support they need after losing their loved one to a war we're not even sure what to call?
It's hard to wrap my head around the number of people we've lost in wars. Over a million people have died, over a 200-year span, when someone decided to start keeping track of those who gave their lives so we can live ours in peace. Memorial Day is a day for remembrance and, as a national holiday, we'll get together with our family, grill out and begin the pool season. That's all fun and games but shame on us for neglecting our veterans who made it back home just to be told they have to wait for services and benefits.
I'm not anti-government and respect all the great privileges that's provided for us but I do have a hard time understanding a government choosing to spend billions of dollars on things like a total shutdown because they can't agree to disagree, or on a smaller scale, (just millions instead of billions), renovations to the White House. Can you imagine how many vets we could take care of with just a portion of this money? Have we gotten so big for our britches we've forgotten about those who served and are still serving to protect our rights?
It's all over the media how much we've let our vets down. I'm embarrassed for our country. It's a terrible mess and it's hard not to rant and rave about it. Like anything and everything else that goes wrong in our society, we are all just one voice, individually, but sometimes, all it takes is one.
Standing in line at the grocery store, I overheard a man say, "thank you for your service. I admire and respect you." I expected to turn around and see a uniformed military person but instead it was a senior vet, in a wheelchair, with his Korean War hat on. After the man who had thanked him left, I watched as the veteran finished paying for his groceries. He rolled towards the door and then stopped abruptly in the middle of the lobby.
You could tell it had been a long time since anyone had thanked him and it took him by surprise. He bowed his head, and ever so slowly took off his hat and placed his hand, and hat, across his chest, as a smile spread across his face.
One voice can make a difference.
Sandy Turner lives in Independence. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org