Image: A military cemetery. Photo by Jackie Williamson /Pixabay.
I’m a citizen of the United States. Today, on the day when we remember those who have made a great sacrifice for this country – the loss of life itself – I have to ask myself: what sacrifices have I made for my country?
Have I ever made a sacrifice for my country?
I pay my taxes every year, and I don’t cheat on them or hide anything. But is that a sacrifice, or just paying my dues? Especially when I compare it to sailors and soldiers who have given their lives for this country, it seems pretty paltry.
I have done volunteer work in my community, but is that really much of a sacrifice? I don’t sign up to dig ditches, after all – I volunteer mostly for safe, relatively clean things, things where my life is never at risk.
When I have been overseas, I’ve done my best to represent the United States. As far as I know, I haven’t left anyone thinking worse of Americans than before they met me. Still, that consists of basic good manners and civil behavior, not exactly the stuff of sacrifice.
Our country has been at war since 2001, when President Bush ordered troops into Afghanistan. That war expanded into an invasion of Iraq, and it drags on without many Americans paying attention to it at all. But here is the sacrifice, according to the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University:
The number of United States troops who have died fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had passed 6,900 at the end of 2018.
They died in a host of ways. The causes of death include rocket-propelled grenade fire and the improvised explosive devices that have been responsible for roughly half of all deaths and injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their deaths were also the result of vehicle crashes, electrocutions, heatstroke, friendly fire, and suicides in theater…
Official Pentagon numbers do not include the many troops who return home and kill themselves as a result of psychological wounds such as PTSD. The DOD does not report suicides among non-active duty reservists. –“Costs of War“
Let those numbers soak in. That is what we are remembering today. Those 6,900 deaths were sacrifices not only for the people who lost their lives, but for their families and friends. Those who died after they came home made no less of a sacrifice, dying of psychological wounds that tortured them and their families and friends for months or years, leaving scars that will never, ever heal.
I pray today for all the mourners who will never again see a beloved son or daughter, a wife or husband, a parent or friend. I pray for the decision makers who have the power to involve us in future wars, that the Holy One will visit them with the wisdom and strength to make war no more.
I have made no real sacrifices for my country. With our volunteer armed forces, that is true of most Americans. Let that fact keep us humble; let it make us willing to do whatever we can for those who make sacrifices for us. May the day soon come when such sacrifices will be rare, indeed, unknown.
Until then, let us be humble in our gratitude.