Yesterday was Veteran’s Day. It was the day we honor those who have served, or are now serving, in the U.S. military. It was a time to say thanks to all of you, past or present, in the military, for your service to our country. Thank you for your sacrifice.
But what do we mean by sacrifice? I read a “Turning Point” devotional once that helps put the word in better focus. The devotional stated, “Put sacrifice at the top of the list of words we’d rather avoid. The dictionary defines sacrifice as “the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something with a higher claim.” We sacrifice when we give up something precious, personal, or profitable to us. Children might sacrifice their favorite toys for a charity drive; a firefighter or soldier might sacrifice his or her life to save others.”
The sacrifices of the soldier are many. Even if the soldier doesn’t end up on the battlefront in Afghanistan or Iraq, he or she may be deployed several times to a place not of their own choosing. And if there is a family involved, they must sacrifice the absence of a spouse or parent, or, if possible, they pack up and follow. The soldier has to sacrifice personal freedom and submit to authority. It is that willingness to follow those in authority that has made our military so effective over the years. The soldier has to sacrifice time. Time spent in defense of our country. Time that could be spent building a career on the outside. That’s why it’s important for us to help that soldier once he leaves the military with that career he missed out on building while he was serving our country. But there may be greater sacrifices made by the soldier. There may be physical, mental, or emotional disabilities that occur.
Then there is the ultimate sacrifice that has been made by those in the military since the founding of our country. They gave their lives for their country. It may have been the soldier at Valley Forge, the soldier at Okinawa, or the soldier at Fallujah. Wherever it was, it was “the ultimate surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable (their lives) for the sake of something with a higher claim (their country).” Recently we have heard much in the news about the tragic deaths of four American soldiers fighting ISIS in the remote African country of Niger. With all the political grandstanding going on concerning their deaths, it easy to get caught up in the politics, and forget these were real men who paid the ultimate price for their country.
A couple of years ago, our pastor read a poem in honor of our veterans. Pastor Dwight is not certain of the author. It states, “It is the Soldier, not the minister, who has given us freedom of religion. It is the Soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press. It is the Soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the Soldier, not the community organizer, who has given us freedom to protest. It is the Soldier, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial. It is the Soldier, not the politician, who has given us the right to vote. It is the Soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag. And it is the Soldier, whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag.” If something is worth fighting for, someone has to make the sacrifices and fight. And that has been the Soldier.
Recently, I was watching a football game on TV when, during one of the endless commercial breaks, there was an advertisement that caught my eye. At first, it looked like an ad for a blockbuster action movie. Four young guys were going from scene to scene, blowing up and shooting everything in sight. They were destroying enemy soldiers, alien invaders, etc. At the end of the commercial it showed it was an ad for the Call of Duty video game. I chuckled when I saw the tag line at the end of the commercial. It read, “There’s a soldier in all of us.”
I suppose there may be some sort of “soldier” stretched out right now on his parents couch in the den playing Call of Duty on his X Box. And then there’s a real Soldier standing guard right now in a dangerous outpost in remote countries like Afghanistan or Niger, who has accepted a real “call of duty.” Thank you for your service, Soldier.
Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org