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On Thanksgiving – Thank God for our Soldiers

Not many people reading this article will remember the old television serial called “I Remember Mamma” and certainly almost none of the young men and women of our present day armed forces will remember it. I shudder when I think of how old I am getting, because I do remember it very well. “I Remember Mamma” was a TV series on every week about a Swedish family that came to America to start a new life away from the old country. Each episode was a perfect picture of what life was like for a family of immigrants in the new land of opportunity. It was a typical family of four with mother, father and sister and brother. One unforgettable episode was when the young man of the family decided to join the army because the war had broken out and he wanted to serve his new country.

The folks and the sister were devastated by his choice to go, but they seemed to adapt to the idea if only to support his decision although not fully agreeing with it. You could feel the sadness on that family as the young man slept in his bed for the last night. I cried so deeply when his mother came in to give him a good night kiss, perhaps his last. I became so emotionally caught up with the story that I could hardly sleep at all that night. I knew nothing about war even though my buddies and I often put a nail in a stick for a trigger and played GI Joe with each other.

All I was sure of was, that as a soldier someone was very likely to be shooting at you at some time. What I found hard to grasp was, why anyone would put themselves in such a situation of their own free will. I can’t say I have ever found a sufficient answer to that question but after more than six decades to ponder it, the question has been rewarded with some surprising and perplexing answers. One of the answers is that some people really believe that the freedom we enjoy here in America is worth fighting to keep and if possible to share with others. Some of them believe that oppression and injustice should not be allowed to prevail unchecked anywhere in the world, not just here at home. I have heard all the comments about how a soldier is only thinking about saving his own life once the bullets start flying but they have been mostly neutralized by the stories of uncommon heroism on our country’s battlefields. There are countless stories of men and women who have risked and in some cases lost their lives while protecting the lives of others around them in their units. For me one story would be enough to prove that not all men are thinking of themselves even after the bullets are flying. Some young folks still join our armed services for lesser reasons. Perhaps they are enticed by the chance to go to college at the expense of Uncle Sam.

In some cases they may just be in that place where they simply don’t know what else to do with their lives. These reasons may not seem as noble as those of the young people who signed up after 9/11 but they are still legitimate reasons and they are not open to any ones critical judgment. Certainly all of those who joined for any reason had a moment when they reflected and faced the possibility that they could be thrust into a battle at any given time. They had to deal with that question but for everyone who signed on the dotted line the question did not deter them, this in itself is a form of bravery. Soldiers once lined up by the thousands willing to fight against one of the world’s greatest despots, Adolph Hitler. No doubt there are those in Iraq today who see Saddam Hussein and his Bathist party members as something akin to Hitler. Still others in Afghanistan are still hoping to corral one of the worst terrorists of all time, Osama Bin Laden. Should we not liken their devotion to accomplishing these goals to those who fought in other wars? In today’s all volunteer army we have no other choice. To offer the soldiers in the present conflicts any less than our complete support and gratitude is not only to dishonor them but it equally dishonors every brave soldier who gave their all in the past wars and battles of our nation. We may brag a bit about how well our soldiers are equipped and trained but we must never forget that they also are guided by certain beliefs and principles that are shared in our land by almost everyone.

This then, is their purpose and it must be appreciated and respected or we are all fools indeed. They represent us in that purpose and anything less than our full support is to betray them and in my humble opinion is akin to treason. This thanksgiving season among the other things I will be thankful for is our soldiers. They still give me a sense of awe like the night I cried in my bed trying to understand the young Swedish boy in the “I Remember Mama” series who decided to go and risk life and limb for his newly adopted country, the USA. I will pray that they all come home safely and if any do not, I will always have a home for them in my heart as will millions of other grateful Americans. Thank God for our soldiers this thanksgiving day.


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