"When I go home people'll ask me, "Hey Hoot, why do you do it man? What, you some kinda war junkie?" You know what I'll say? I won't say a goddamn word. Why? They won't understand. They won't understand why we do it. They won't understand that it's about the men next to you, and that's it. That's all it is."
Sgt. Norm 'Hoot' Hooten
Once again it's Memorial Day and the talking heads on the tube are talking about the cost of gas, the cost of food and the cost of living in general. And once again, not very many people seem to be remembering that there is a much higher cost that we have paid and are STILL paying on this Memorial day for our freedoms. This country still has men and women on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as other hot spots the world over. These young men and women are paying the cost, day in and day out by their service that they willingly give to their fellow citizens. Some of this cost can be the time spent away from families, personal lives interrupted, financial loss. Other parts of this cost are a bit more grim, such as life changing injuries or death.
I am still somewhat bothered that the majority of Americans again don't seem to understand what Memorial Day is all about. Again, to most, all it means is it's the start of vacation season, cook outs and beach trips. Now don't get me wrong, it's a great thing that we have a country that we can focus on the the good life and not have pay attention to the more unpleasant things, but I can't help but think that we do a very great disservice to those who have and continue to pay that most awful price for us to enjoy these benefits by not recognizing their efforts and sacrifices. George Orwell said it best: " We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm. " I personally make every effort to thank these warriors for what they have done for our country, both in word and deed. I walk up to people in uniform and say thanks, I see them eating in a restaurant I get the waitperson to give me their check. Small things, in the bigger scheme of things, but at least I feel like I am doing something to try to pay the debit that we owe these fine young men and women.
I am lucky in that in a very small degree I understand what motivates these young Americans to serve so unselfishly. They may first go in the service with thoughts of patriotism, service to country, or any of a number of other reasons. But why they stay, that gets a bit different. For the most part, they stay because of their buddies. I started out this entry with a quote from a scene in the movie, Blackhawk Down. A Delta Force soldier is about to go back out and look for some missing fellow soldiers in Mogadishu, Somalia. He makes that comment to a Army Ranger. When I saw that scene, I knew exactly what he meant. As a cop, I have felt the same way about the officers I worked with. We ate together, worked together, bled together, fought others together, fought amongst ourselves and became a family. I would do anything in the world for the officers I worked with, without question. In no way does day-in, day-out law enforcement come close to the danger of combat in the hills of Afghanistan or the mean streets of Iraq. But it did give me a feel for it. And for that, I am grateful.
So my appreciation for today's military comes not only from my head, but also my heart.
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