Thursday, November 11, 2010

A moment frozen in time

A young boy, maybe 8 or 9 years old. Standing tall, in his best suit, trying oh so hard to be a man at that particular moment. A Marine, in full ceremonial garb, presenting that boy with the flag that had recently draped the boy's father's casket.

The boy is devastated. His whole world has crumpled around him. The man he called "dad" is gone. The man who hugged him, who lifted him up to the sky, laughing, as the boy cried in delight "Daddy!" is no more, and he is far too young to fully understand why this must be so.

The Marine is devastated. He is presenting a memento to a child who can not possibly understand why life as he knows it has been demolished, never to return. The Marine is holding on to his self control with every fiber of his being, when all he wants to do is hug the boy tight and tell him that it's OK to grieve, he doesn't have to be a man at this particular moment, he is free to be a little boy. The Marine has seen combat, he has seen horrible, terrible things. He's held comrades as they bled out on a dusty Afghanistan road, directed fire into hostile locations that he knew held women and children, but he had, reluctantly (dear God how reluctantly) to do it to ensure the safety of his men. He is a hero in every sense of the word, but nothing has prepared him for this.

We (you and I) are devastated. We observe this tableau from a distance. We (or at least I) are horrified at the reality this picture forces us to confront. The picture hits us like a mule kick to the heart. How many of us are willing to hazard our loved ones for freedom?

Make no mistake, what this little boy's father died for was our freedom. The boy is being presented with that flag "On behalf of a grateful nation". Much as his father did, that little boy is paying the price of freedom in full. My not so little anymore boy wants to go into the armed forces where he might very well die. He's willing to chance that for an ideal. I'm willing to let him go in the service of that same ideal. Every signer of the Declaration of Independence was willing to pledge "our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor." for this country. Most of them did indeed pay with their fortunes and some with their lives. Can we in the 21st century expect to do less, or are our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor now worthless?

Today of all days, my heartfelt thanks goes out to all of those men, women and their families whose answer to that question has always been "Hell no!". They are the rock upon which this nation rests.