IT’S MEMORIAL DAY AMERICA
I REMEMBER BECOMING ANNOYED AT THE ABSURDITY OF THE WORDS “HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY!” WHAT I WASN’T CLEAR ON, WAS THAT I WAS JUST BEGINNING TO UNDERSTAND WHAT I WAS REALLY FEELING…
If you’ve begun reading this, I ask that you please bear with me as I write through grief this day beyond any I have experienced before.
A grief that goes beyond just loss. A grief that deepens and grows only when a clear understanding of MORE is dawning. A recognition that division of a nation is the death of the family it was intended to be.
As soldiers, we do not lay down our lives for no reason. It has been implied to me on more than one occasion that something is not right with ME to even be willing to do such a thing. I have grappled with this for years. The quizzical looks when I say that I would endure it again. The looks of pity and sadness when I would struggle; the anger on my “behalf” that my country owes me for what I voluntarily gave as though I gained nothing for my loss. I did not sacrifice for nothing…it IS for something far greater than a GIF, emoji, hashtag or statement can represent. I felt it only fitting to help others understand why we do what we do…and why we’d do it again. Because if it were you, you probably would too…
To put it simply, it is because of love.
What we would do for our family, is only what you would do for your own. I know you understand the love that cannot always be adequately described. The love that calls you to action before you realize it. There are no second thoughts. The love that gives a mother the strength to lift a car off of her child. The love that causes a father to instinctively snatch his child from danger or shield them from danger with his body. The love that makes a brother or sister who just fought with their sibling to step into the fray with anyone else and defend them, even until death.
It is the love that manifests in the tenderness with which you attend to another as they slip away from mortality. Or as you wash glass and debris from the eyes of a commander who helplessly witnessed the annihilation of half his unit. The exquisite pain that comes with doing so…a pain that you would trade for nothing… The pain that can only come with first submitting to the connection of your spirit to that of another living soul to help bear their suffering… Recognizing that that soul, is your brother, your sister.
It is a love that is higher and greater than any you have experienced before it. And it changes you forever…
My point is, at its core, it is the same love. YOU have felt it! As professional warriors, we have merely had the opportunity to expand our hearts and subsequently the definition of family to include even those we don’t know personally; those who may not agree with us, even hate us. We understand that “like” is not a prerequisite for love. Love goes far beyond fleeting feelings; it is a deliberate choice that is the fertile soil from which springs what is perceived as “heroic” action. Even if…no, ESPECIALLY if that action means laying down your own life.
It is that love that truly defines those we remember today because that love is the hallmark of sacrifice that doesn’t feel like, well, sacrifice.
There is no greater power than love as it holds the power to grow, to become and we are commanded by God to do it.
Why are we here? We are here that we might have true joy. Joy comes from living in the fullness of our creation and we are created to, for and by love. If you truly want to honor the fallen (and even get a jump on Veterans Day) expand your capacity to love one another.
There is power in love because it requires more of you. It is the essence of life…
It is the power to heal the pain, injury and division between people, especially those that reside in the nation we so deeply desire to serve. And it starts with you.
Please continue to celebrate with your families, your friends this day and as you remember the hundreds of thousands who laid down their lives in locations far and near, even on obscure fronts of which you have NEVER heard. Death is a result, an outcome, but it is not about death. It is about love.
So grateful you took the time to read this.
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13 KJV
ROBIN W. O’BANNON, Technical Sergeant, United States Air Force, Retired