I take things for granted. I’m very bad about this. It takes me seeing how much it cost others before I understand how lucky I am. Unfortunately, these opportunties don’t come very often. For any of us. And I know that I am not the only one who takes blessings in life for granted. Every person in my life does the same, to one degree or another. We live our lives, complaining about every little cross and weight, never giving one thought to what it is we do have.
Like Freedom and Life.
I went to eat lunch with my father two days ago (June 14). My father is deputy director at the Veteran’s Association Hospital, a huge facility that serves many of our country’s veterans. One need only take a walk through the wards to see the cost so many paid unquestioningly. For me, all it took was a walk through the dining hall. In line for my weekly hamburger, my mouth was watering. They can make some wicked hamburgers there and I had been working hard all morning. And then, it took just a minute too long to get up to the counter. I began to get impatient. As I was switching feet and grumbling, my eye caught something behind me at waist level.
It was a man. Confined to a wheelchair, he was prematurely old. Nothing was left to him, but sagging flesh and bones. Even his mind was no longer here. His patient wife stood beside him. “Honey, over here. We have to wait over here. We need to get you off the morphine. It really makes you sleepy.” The man was slowly dying and his wife was having to watch him go. What a painful vocation. As I tore my stare from the man, I had to fight back tears. The tears weren’t only because of his illness. He wore a hat. Vietnam Veteran, it read.
My God, I thought, this man fought in defense of me. He once marched valiantly off to fight a War, one in which he was never supported. He went off proudly, leaving his wife behind, and was the pinnacle of manhood: brave, strong, courageous, valiant, and sacrificing. And what was left of him. Nothing. He was slowly wasting away. He sat in an electric wheelchair completely incognizant of everything around him: his wife’s loving beckons, my saddened stares. The soldier was gone.
It’s a little late for Memorial Day and a little too early for Independence Day, but maybe it’s better that way. We should always remember. Those soldiers who gave their lives lie in graves and those who gave less lie in wheelchairs. They unquestioningly gave what they were called to give and didn’t think twice. Yet, when I can’t have my food or see my friends, I complain. I have done nothing to deserve the every thing I have. Yet these men and women gave all and have nothing left.
Thank you to all the veterans who unquestioningly sacrifice everything for me so that I may be greedy and impatient. And for those still fighting overseas and their families, thank you. Thank you for being so kind as to lend your loved ones to such an incredible cause. God bless the soldiers: all those who have gone, those who shall go, and those to come. May God bless you and America.