Memorial Day has always been a very special day to me. Whether camping with the family, swimming, fishing or preparing 3)BBQ for the 4)grill, I do my very best to keep the memory of my fallen brothers and sisters in the 5)foreground of my mind at all times.
As a young 17-year-old boy going into the service of my country, I was not the brightest 6)bulb on the tree. Truth be known, I was a bit of a 7)basket case in severe need of psychological counseling. After
almost two years, I was discharged from the United States Army as an “undesirable” individual. For some reason I just could not adapt to military life.
I should have been prepared for military life, having spent my entire childhood in a very strict and regimented 8)Jacksonville, Florida, orphanage. If not that, then my two years at the Florida School for Boys 9)Reformatory in 10)Marianna should have certainly prepared me for such rigid training.
“Freedom,” to me, had nothing to do with love or family. My mind was totally blank of what having a mother and a father felt like. I didn’t know anything about those types of people. The only freedom I was looking for was the right to get a drink of water or to be able to go to the bathroom without having to ask permission. Or being able to open a refrigerator and get something to eat when you were hungry (which I had never done before.) Just being able to do those things was something worth dying for.
For years I was ashamed of myself. I constantly wondered why I had failed in my duties and responsibilities as a young boy. Why did I find it so difficult to help defend my country’s freedom? Now, at age 61, I can clearly see what I could not see when I was a young man.
I was so proud of myself when I graduated from 11)boot camp at 12)Fort Gordon, Georgia. For the first time in my life, I had accomplished something of value. When the ceremony was over, thousands of soldiers ran off the 13)parade ground and into the waiting arms of their loved ones. Every
soldier screamed and yelled with joy as they hugged, laughed and headed off to spend time with their families. Every one of them had someone to be proud of them.
Within fifteen minutes everyone had disappeared into the distance. In the quiet, I stood alone on the large grassy field. Looking down at the one medal on my chest, I could feel the tears rolling down my cheeks. It was at that very moment that I realized that I had no reason to defend freedom. That freedom was not worth dying
for unless it brought one a sense of happiness and security. I sat down in the grass, placed my hands over my face, and I cried. Not for myself but because I rea-lized that I had no one to die for.
Today, as I look out my window I see my grandchildren running in play while smiling and laughing. I see no fear on their face or in their eyes. I can clearly see what I could not see back then. I now realize the sacrifice that a soldier must give. I now realize the sacrifice that I should have been willing to give so that others could be happy.
本文为全文原貌 未安装PDF浏览器用户请先下载安装 原版全文 There is nothing I can do to undo my irresponsibility as a 17-year-old young man. The best I can do is to forever honor, with all my heart and the greatest of serenity, those who gave me and my family the freedom that we now enjoy.
Not only on Memorial Day but every day of the year.
本文为全文原貌 未安装PDF浏览器用户请先下载安装 原版全文