I'm a generation X-er. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the Shock and Awe headlines of March 2003, are the acts of war I remember. And as close to home as the 9/11 attacks and the war in Iraq and Afghanistan have been to me, no one close to me has lost their life in the battles of the past 16 years. Memorial Day could easily become the symbolic start of summer for me and nothing more. But I'm a mom of teenage boys, and I hear the news headlines and appreciate American history and the value of human life too much to let that happen.
For me, remembering those who have lost their lives serving in the military means intentionally remembering when I don't remember. It means purposefully reflecting on what it means to me that I live in a country where over a million people have given their lives in combat.
My 12 and 14 year old sons know war mostly in terms of first person shooter games (something I'd rather they never knew). They hear headlines and know the story of 9/11. For them, the history of war is glamorized.
My point is, neither I nor my sons know the impact of loosing someone we love to war. So I decided to have the boys use Google to calculate the combat deaths from every U.S. military conflict. Once they added all those lives up, they had come up with 1,243,493 sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers given for us.
We never knew one of them.
Their lives and deaths weren't glamorous. They weren't perfect. They weren't Marvel comic heroes. But they put themselves in harms way in the moment they lost their lives on a mission to protect this country from the evils of foreign oppression and dictators. Without them, the country my sons and I live in may not exist. Both they and I need to take the time to remember those we don't remember so we can foster gratitude and soberness and thoughtfulness about this country and our roles here.
I asked my boys to write either a poem or essay... some sort of reflection on the 1,243,493 souls who gave their lives in military combat for the freedom of citizens of the United States.
Connor, my 14 year old wrote an essay, "Why These Lives Matter To Us." Ryland an acrostic using the words MEMORIAL DAY. Me, a blog. Our stopping to think and reflect on these lives with our words is important. It's a way to honor the ones remembered. Even when we don't remember.
While writing this over my Twitter feed came a tweet about the book The Things Our Fathers Saw: The Untold Stories of the World War II Generation is on sale on Amazon for $0.99 in the kindle edition. We'll be reading some of that tonight too.
As a Christian, my ultimate homeland is not the United States of America, but I want to be a blessing to her and honor those who laid down their lives for sojourning Americans like me. I also want to be a sober minded, serving citizen and a mom who passes thoughtfulness and gratitude and the gift of remembering on to her kids.
How are you intentionally remembering the 1,243,493 today?