I am embarrassed to admit that when I was a child and a teenager I didn’t understand. I didn’t understand the commitment and sacrifice of a veteran. I didn’t understand the danger in times of war & peace. I didn’t have an appreciation for the commitment and sacrifice. I understood that my grandfather served in WWI & tried to teach us a few French words he learned when he served in France. I knew that my Uncle Bob was a veteran of WWII, and that my dad served in the Navy after high school. But I didn’t think it was a big deal, and for that I apologize. Thankfully as I grew up and matured I began to realize the magnitude of the sacrifice. The bravery and selflessness I cannot fathom. Every veteran past, present & future chooses to put themselves in harm’s way knowing the danger that comes with their profession. And they do it gladly and proudly. It's what makes this nation great.
A few years ago Diana, our exchange student from Russia, spoke with me about how surprised she was at the level of reverence in which we hold our military in this country. She didn’t understand. It seems in Russia the military is not respected. In Russia they serve because they are told to. She told us most households don’t own a Russian flag – and would never fly it proudly as we do ours. On Memorial Day the parade passes in front of our house, and she was amazed as we lined our street waving our flags, honoring our veterans and those who lost their lives protecting our freedom.
From the front porch of my house I can see the Mound Cemetery, which has the highest number of burials of Revolutionary War Officers in the country. Yesterday at the Mound Cemetery, Marietta buried our latest military hero, Marine Lance Corporal Josh Taylor - who was killed in the mortar explosion in Nevada that also killed 6 others. My daughter knew Josh in high school and said he was so very kind and polite. He isn’t the first from our town, and he won’t be the last, but he’s the first classmate of my children. I didn’t know him. I don’t know his family. But I walked to the end of the block to pay my respects to a man who chose to make the Marines his career in a time of war. He was a mortar specialist and certainly he knew that his chosen specialty put him in danger even when he wasn’t in combat. There are no words to describe that type of commitment to our freedom.
There was a silence on my street the likes of which I have never heard. You didn't hear a car or a dog’s bark or a cell phone or a single voice. Complete and utter silence as his fellow Marines saluted him one last time. The silence was broken only by the sound of the bagpipes and the gun salute and the playing of taps. I didn’t know him, yet my tears came for him, his family & fiancé. His sacrifice ultimately became theirs.
I am humbled and in awe of all who wear the uniform and serve our country. Yesterday as I stood in the silent crowd paying tribute to Josh Taylor, I know we were all wondering how it was possible that our hearts could be so swollen with pride and so broken at the same time.
Heroes. All of you.