What We Remember

Monday, May 30, 2011

Time to make my traditional Memorial Day post:

I come from a family where military service is common.

My paternal grandfather was in the Army; WWII - Africa, where he survived a sniper attack. The sniper was trained to shoot at night by targeting cigarette glow, assuming the cig would be in someone's mouth. My grandfather happened to be holding his in his hand, which is what was hit.

My maternal great uncle was a Marine; WWII; Okinawa - 18 years old and he lost his leg above the knee because he threw his body on top of a grenade to save his friends. It cost him a kidney and he came home full of shrapnel. He only made it home at all because a general in the area thought he was a dead man and gave up his seat on the chopper so he wouldn't die there. He had horror stories of Naha City of the most literal kind.

His brother was Army Corps. of Engineers; Korea - they built what needed to be built when and where it needed to built whether it was possible or not.

My father tried to join every branch, but the combination of color blindness and flat feet excluded him. His brother was Navy.

My maternal grandfather was one that worked for the guys making the equipment at General Dynamics; Ft. Worth. (I have a piece of the original test model for the chimp capsule he helped design the insulation for. They called it a "space sandwich.)

My paternal grandmother was an Army WAC; WWII.

And most recently, my cousin did 3 tours in Iraq with the Marines.

Thankfully they all survived their service. Others didn't, and today marks the time we honor that as well as the reasons those who didn't make it back died. It's easy to say Freedom isn't Free, but their sacrifice deserve more than that. There are as many reasons as there are fallen soldiers, but I'll focus on the big 10.

1. It's thanks to the men and women who serve that you don't have to hold your church services or Seders in darkened basements, and you can take out your prayer rug and bow to the east. That whatever icons are important to your religion can be displayed with pride instead of hidden in fear or made a source of shame. Thanks to them, Christmas trees and menorahs can be lit bright in the window and those who participate in the Festival of Color can enjoy their day. No one's forced to eat during Ramadan for fear of being discovered. You can wear a head scarf, but can't be forced to sew a Star-of-David on your coat. That's freedom of religion.

It's thanks to the men and women who serve that our news comes from different outlets and different angles and isn't stamped "Approved Government News". We don't have someone looming over our shoulders to make sure we don't find out what's going on in another part of the world or cleaning up opinions of our leaders. We don't notices telling us not to worry about hurricane season or flooding because our leaders took care of that problem or warning us to ignore "propaganda" that exposes short comings that could impact the public. And you don't have to register every moment on line so someone knows where you look and what you say. That's freedom of the press.

It's thanks to the men and women who serve that we can gather together in peaceful protest and shout with a louder voice than we'd able to use on our own. We can get attention directed to the people who have no voice of their own at all and keep the spotlight on those trying to hide things that shouldn't be covered up. That's freedom of assembly.

It's thanks to the men and women who serve that you know who represents you in government and that you know where they stand on what issue. You can get together with like minded individuals and bring your wants and needs to them, and if they don't act the way you think they should, you can tell them your vote's going elsewhere in the next election. That's your right to petition.

2. Even though most of us will never have to use a weapon to defend our home, family or person, the men and women who serve do so to make sure that the right is there if you need it. That's the right to bear arms.

3. Those who serve do so to ensure that your home is your home and not a convenient place to park the local reserves. You have a right to a locked door that can't be breached because a person in uniform wants to use or abuse your property, family or person. That's the right not to quarter.

4. Those who serve do so to ensure you have a right to what's yours and a right to tell others that what's yours is none of their business. You have a right to security and privacy in your own home, and a right to keep what belongs to you in whatever legal manner you choose inside your own space. That's the right of no illegal search and seizure.

5. Those who serve do so to ensure your right to keep your mouth shut. Government officials can't force or coerce you to say you've done something wrong, nor can they put those words in your mouth. They don't have the right to write your confession and have you sign it or take what's yours just because they want it. They have to compensate you. That's the right not to self-incriminate.

6. Those who serve do so to ensure that you aren't shuffled off in the middle of the night never to be seen or heard from again. They make sure that you get a trial where your voice can be heard and your face can be seen, where friends or enemies can speak on your behalf and where your fate is decided by those of your own station rather than an arbitrary decision by someone in authority. That's your right to trial by jury.

7. Those who serve do so to ensure that rights to trial don't only apply to criminal cases. They make sure that your property and business gets a chance to make their case in court with facts to support your side being presented. That's your right to civil trial by jury.

8. Those who serve do so to make sure that no official body throws a child in jail for life for stealing a meal or beats someone to death in the street as punishment. They ensure that the perpetrator of a crime is the sole recipient of the punishment, and that his/her children and spouse aren't jailed as well. They ensure that torture isn't a penalty assigned by the court and that no force to engage in the practice has the right to operate. That's your right not to have cruel and unusual punishment.

9. Those who serve do so to ensure fancy words and regulations don't outsmart common sense. That's your right retain rights not specifically listed.

10. Those who serve do so to ensure the republic remembers that it's made of many parts and that those parts have rights, too. They ensure the states remember that they are made of many people and that those people have rights, too. No right of one entity can exclude another from its rights. That's the right of state and person.

Most people know about the Bill of Rights, few can tell you what they say beyond "Pleading the 5th" or freedom of press/religion. But every one of those rights was bought and paid for with blood of men and women who died believing they were worth protecting for their families and children and friends and strangers. Every right and privilege you overlook is a death in vain because you can't exercise rights you don't know you have.

Those red stripes aren't just representative of the colonies that started this country; they're a tribute to the blood spilled to birth it and used as the ink to write the contract with its citizens.

Remember those who gave more than their fair share to make sure your got yours, and remember the gift they gave you. They don't deserve to be forgotten.

Happy Memorial Day.

3 Chiming In:

Emily White said...

Great post, Josin. Thank you. As a U.S. Army veteran, I can't ever say enough how much stuff like this means to us.

Megan Coakley said...

My brother wanted to be a Marine, but didn't make the cut. He has friends who have served, and continue to do so. He has taught me to take the time to thank our service people when I see them in the grocery store, or the airport. I am trying to pass this on to my children, because like many young people, they take their rights for granted.

Anonymous said...

Really a great post! One thing I admire about the american people is that they take pride in their flag, in their army men, which is unfortunately more than I can say for many of my copatriots. So many thousands of greek have been sacrifised for piece and freedom , so many highly educated military men and women still have to fight for the respect they fully deserve. It is not their job to die, it is to protect and saveguard, yet they do get injured or dead, and we should only be thankful, for all those who lose their lives for us ,willingly, no matter what country they come from. In Greece, we have a different Memorial Day, yet I raise my glass along with yours for piece on earth!

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