Yes, I know Memorial Day was yesterday, and yes, I know I didn’t write. I simply could not find the right words to describe the plethora of thoughts I was having on that particular day. Now, I’m sure everyone knows what Memorial Day is about, so I won’t bore you with the basics. Let’s just get right down to it, shall we?
What I see.. The red white and blue flags held in hands both young and old. The sidewalks, crowded with people all dressed up in bright colors, smiling and laughing and having a grand ol’ time. The people stop their chatting of barbecues long enough to watch as the red and blue lights of the police car that signals the coming of the parade. Emergency vehicles let out an opera of loud, nearly deafening music as sirens blared. Next came the pounding of drums as the local high school band begins to play the Star-Spangled Banner. The parade continues, a colonial reenactment group, veterans, baseball teams, girl-scouts, boy-scouts, even pirates go by on this wonderful day. People laugh and joke, they salute the flag when it goes by, then think about the apple pie that’s waiting for them back home.
Now, I don’t know why I feel the way I do, but when I see a vet, dressed in civilian clothes, wearing just a warm out hat that holds his colors and the name of his war, I stop, I hold out my hand, and I thank them for their service. We in the U.S. of A., have had the luxury of freedom in a way that has been watered down into the thoughts of discrimination. All around me I hear the complaints. I notice when people are putting down Homosexual relationships, when they discriminate against skin tones, and it literally makes me sick to my stomach. But what makes me mad, I mean ready to fight mad, is when people say “they are taking away our freedoms!” Since 1777 all the way up to 2015, our soldiers have been at war. Blood, sweat, and tears have purchased the land on which we stand. Our country was born out of a war. We created the constitution to give us the freedoms that we all enjoy. I can’t stand when people think that their freedoms are being stolen, the sheer fact that we are allowed to SAY that is proof that we live in the land of the free. In other countries, if you speak out against your government, you are found in the night and silently executed. The fact we battled segregation at all, that we won against it, is proof we live in the land of the free. America is one big pot in which people of all nations can come, they can speak freely, without fear that their words might end their lives. We can express our religion, whatever that may be, and not have the fear of becoming martyred every time we open our eyes. We don’t have to hide who we are, we can be openly straight or openly bisexual, openly gay, and we don’t have to fear becoming trapped and ‘re-educated’ by some person who thinks they have the divine right. We can have our own firearms, work in whatever job we want, have as many children as we want, and yet still people claim that we are being robbed. It makes me wonder what goes on in the eyes of our soldiers, who fought and bled, who cried over lost brothers and sisters in arms, to give you those freedoms that you complain about not having.
I was introduced to a soldier not too long ago. His name is Richard P. Cichon. He was a proud Marine. Now, to give you an idea, just becoming a Marine means that you are top of the class. You have the full package of smarts, strength, and heart. Richard was no exception to that rule. He had graduated from Providence College in 1960, in a time when the country was drafting young men to go to Vietnam to war. Richard was not drafted. He volunteered his time, his heart, and his service. He chose to go to a place that was under attack, to protect the land that he loves. He flew 242 missions in Vietnam alone, and served valiantly for his country for seven years.
Many people, when they think of soldiers, think of the PTSD side effects or the glory side of war, but they don’t think of the reality of it. Richard went on with his life after service and became a history teacher at a high school. Just to think about that. When he taught about the Vietnam war, he went over his very own missions, he would teach children through a first person experience. What I wouldn’t give to be part of that class! But his work didn’t stop there, he was a devout catholic who was awarded the Marion Medal, which is awarded to citizens who have done great achievements for their community. To the government, he was a common soldier, to his community, he is an outstanding citizen, to his family, he is a father, a husband, a family man. The life of a soldier isn’t defined by his battles that take place only on some foreign battlefield, but they are defined by the battles of life which they fight, just like you and me, they go to work, they have families, and they live. But unlike the common American, they carry the memories of war, of running through foreign lands, and taking up arms to keep the battle off our shores.
I hope when you wave the little flag, or when you see a soldier in civilian clothing, you stop and think about the ones who fought, the ones who died, and the ones who lived, to bring you the freedoms that our land enjoys. I hope you see, not the apple pie, and the things you can complain about, but the things you are thankful for. For the home you live in, the yard where your kids play, and the soldier behind the gun, who gave his all, so that you could have a smile on your face.
A big thank you to all those veterans who have fought for their country! Weather US or otherwise, a soldier is a soldier, no matter their colors, and I thank you for all you have done in service to your country.