Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Thank you.

Yesterday I was given the news that some men I know from the National Guard here in Kansas will soon depart for Iraq. They'll kiss their wives, their children and their careers here good-bye and for two years they will do what they have always known they might have to do, but always hoped they wouldn't.

Two years. That's a long time. A lot can happen in two years. Children crawling now will be walking and talking in two years. High school sophomores will graduate in two years. Promotions that could have been theirs in two years will belong to someone else.

In two years, cars will break down, loved ones may pass away, soccer games will be missed, and a lot of tears from the eyes of a lot of children will be cried. It's a long time to be apart from your life.

It's a huge sacrifice that I am thankful they are willing to make for freedom, and one I know I am not capable of making myself.

They'll pack their bags, pack the kid's pictures and pack their jeans and t-shirts away. They'll call their attorneys to make wills, their banks to make payment arrangements and their friends for one final see-you-in-two-years-party.

They'll hold their spouses tight and make them promise they'll still love them when it's all over. That no matter how long they are away, they will still have a home to return to.

They'll tell anyone that will listen that they are not afraid. That they have been trained for this task and that they are ready and willing to go. And every word will be true.

But, in the still of night, when everyone else is sleeping, the pictures of captured and tortured fellow soldiers will steal their rest and they'll ask themselves again and again what they will do if so horrible a circumstance should befall them.

But in my mind, what they won't do is even more important than what they will do.

They will not complain.

They will not hold up signs announcing to the world that this "war" is unjust. They won't hold press conferences to tell America that we have no business doing what we're doing. They won't write letters begging the President to change his policy. Not even in the privacy of their own homes will they even wonder aloud to their spouses whether the United States is doing the right thing.

That's because these men and women in our United States Armed Forces are simply not ordinary men and women.

They have a fire inside them, each and every one. A fire that cannot be artificially lit, but rather a fire that must be burning at the very moment you are born. A righteous, determined, proud fire that demands all men, women and children have the right to breathe freedom. No matter who they are, no matter where they are, no matter how hopeless the promise of freedom seems, these men and women are willing to sacrifice everything, including their very lives, to purchase that freedom.

When that day comes that my friends leave this tiny Midwestern chunk of America, I will cry. I'll cry because I am afraid for them. I'll cry because I will miss them while they are away. But more than these, I'll cry at the thought of this beautiful and amazingly unselfish gift they are happily giving the world.

And I will pray. I will pray for their safe return and that God, the giver of all freedom, will richly bless their efforts, their families and their lives. I will tie a yellow ribbon in their honor that will remain in place until all our loved ones are safely back in our arms and I will sleep, secure in the knowledge that those I love are keeping watch over my own freedom.

Thank you. All of you. God speed.

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Copyright © 2004, Sherri Bailey
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