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Monday, October 04, 2010 4:31 AM

You wake up at dawn and get the morning paper. You decide you’d rather read it somewhere else this time, so you walk to the nearest coffee shop and order a tall vanilla latte, skim please. While reading the paper you come across a somewhat controversial article about the war in Iraq and you express your strong, dissenting opinion to a nearby person who is also reading the article. A debate is opened up, and soon others in the vicinity are joining in and expressing their various opinions on the war, on politics in this country, on this country in general.

This is perhaps a common illustration of what many Americans do every day, nothing out of the ordinary — a typical morning consisting of a caffeinated beverage or two and an exercising of free speech to go along with it. But did you ever, in the midst of your coffee and debate, think about why? Or how? How you are able to do this every day?
This one’s for the soldiers.

It’s so easy to take all of our rights for granted – though I try not to, I’m certainly guilty of it. It’s easy to criticize a war from the comfort of our living rooms, wrapped in blankets on comfy couches as CNN bombards us yet again with more reports of political unrest, more suicide bombers, and a higher death toll than yesterday.  It’s not hard to speak up then, and I’ve been known to speak up, too. What I try to remember, though, is that I have no room to talk. Until I have been taken from my family for four years, as my grandpa was during World War II, until I have been drafted to fight in Vietnam, as my dad was, or until I am a DOUBLE amputee who continues to fight on the front lines of America’s Afghan surge, as 27-year-old Dan Luckett is doing, until then I have no room to talk.

I know we honor soldiers regularly on designated days, by sticking yellow ribbons on our vehicles, and by placing flags outside our homes.  It still doesn’t seem like enough. I can’t even imagine for a second what they’re all going through daily. I try to keep perspective when I have a “bad” day at work or a rough time with my kids. My bad days are nothing. I’m not brave enough to risk my life for my country, to protect and fight for so many freedoms and rights that so many of us take for granted. I am in awe of each and every man and woman who is that selfless and strong, that courageous to willingly (or unwillingly – you think anyone WANTS to go to war?) fight for our rights every day, as we sit back here and freely criticize the war they’re fighting, when ironically, the fact that they’re fighting and continuing to fight is the only reason we have this right to free speech and right to criticize anything at all.

I’m not trying to sound preachy. This is just a topic that gets to me, partly because I don’t always feel worthy of all the rights I have since I have never stood on the front lines to get them myself, and partly because it baffles, annoys, and bewilders the living crap out of me that we live in a society that exalts and worships the likes of reality TV stars…for what? Having a pulse? We should know the names of these soldiers who are dying every day FOR US, and instead we know the names of every untalented, unworthy, unbearable “star” in Hollywood. Why?
My grandpa said of World War II, “I never thought that I would make it home. The words that kept me going were, ‘This, too, shall pass.’” And it did, though not everyone made it out alive. (There is something so deeply moving about a veteran’s funeral that eclipses one of someone who did not serve – if those first stunning strains of “Taps” don’t cause tears to fill your eyes, then frankly, you don’t have a heart beating in your chest.) A common saying of Vietnam, my dad said, was, “When I die I will go to Heaven because I spent my time in Hell.” Would YOU give up your legs to be able to have that latte and newspaper every day? If not, thank someone who did.
If you appreciate your rights, thank a soldier as often as you can - every day, even. Stop by the VFW. Send packages overseas. Raise awareness in your own little way and try not to take your freedom for granted. To all the men and women who have served this country to defend each and every one of us, from the bottom of my heart…
THANK YOU.


Sara Berelsman lives in Delphos with her husband Andy and their daughters Adele and Eleanor. She teaches college literature and psychology courses and married a Marine. She urges you to watch Greenday’s “Wake Me Up When September Ends” video on YouTube for a modern take on the war. Gets her every time.

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, November 06, 2012 4:14 PM
 

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