Veterans- Personification of Sacrifice

Anything I write will pale in comparison to a veteran’s willingness to sacrifice. I’ll never be satisfied with the end result of this blog. It will never be enough to thank those who made my ability to write this blog a realistic freedom. But, a failure to write anything because I don’t feel it does justice to their level of sacrifice, just isn’t right. So, tonight it’s not about my family’s sacrifice. Tonight, it’s about those who paved the road and continue to clear it again and again, so that we all can continue to be free.

veterans day

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.

                                                    -Thomas Jefferson

As a teacher, I’ve often used this quote.  I’ve utilized it in a variety of ways- to discuss hypocrisy, to lead a discussion on sacrifice, to establish a pre-reading conversation on the book, The Things They Carried, and many more ways.  It’s actually one of my favorite quotes.  Its simplicity speaks volumes.

And, as a high school teacher, I quite frequently discuss my students’ plans for the future.  Many of my students want to join the military.  And, sometimes they tell me, “people don’t understand my motives.  They tell me, ‘why would you want to intentionally put yourself in harm’s way?'” And often times, my students can’t verbally express their calling.  They can’t put into words why they feel they should enlist.  Some join because they feel it’s their only option.  Others join because they “need to grow up, and have a better life.”  And then, on a rare occasion, I have students who are enlisting for a far different reason.  In these students, you can see their calling in their eyes.  You can hear it in their voice.  And before we go farther, please understand that I am in no way saying one reason for enlistment is better or more noble than the others.  Anyone willing to enlist is in my definition the personification of sacrifice.

But today, I want to share with you a story of one of my AP students from last year.  A young man who has inspired me, and is wise beyond his years.  A young man who has had military running through his blood since I have known him.  A young man who understands the nature of a sacrifice on a level few people twice his age could. In fact, he hasn’t even been given the opportunity yet to sacrifice for his country, but I can assure you he gets the motive of sacrifice.  He told me that he was enlisting for his 17th birthday present to himself.  I hope that the conversation he and I had will inspire you to be so willing to sacrifice in your life – even if it’s on a much smaller level.

I’m going to quote his conversation verbatim, (please remember he is a high school student):

“I just don’t understand…everybody asks me why I want to [enlist in the Marines], and I can’t give them an [exact] answer.  It’s not a matter of what I want. It’s just something I feel like I have to do for myself.  I don’t want to sign a piece of paper knowing I could be signing my life away. And I don’t look forward to all of the sacrifices I’m going to have to make, but nothing pushes me away from it either.  If anything, it pulls me in more.  It makes me want to do it even more.  I honestly don’t understand how people can live with themselves without making sacrifices.  In my eyes sacrifice builds character. If I’m not willing to sacrifice what I have for something I believe in, then I am too caught up in material things and I’m being selfish. The people that others are losing their lives for are no different than you and I.  I would expect others to sacrifice what they have for me.  And it would be pretty hypocritical of me not to do the same for them.  If people would realize the sacrifices that others make for them and choose to make the sacrifices for someone else, the world would be so much different.  Now I know there’s no way that will ever happen, but that’s just the philosophy I live by.  I’m only one person, and I can only do so much, but if I can do just enough to inspire someone else to live their life that way, then I feel like I have done my job.”

What could I possibly add to that? In fact, anything else I have to say fails in comparison to his comments.  This young man, hasn’t even had a chance to become a veteran yet, but he, and each and every veteran, are the personification of sacrifice.

I loved his honesty with the statement, ” I don’t look forward to all of the sacrifices I’m going to have to make.”  That statement right there is why he and all of our veterans are the personification of sacrifice.  The mere definition of sacrifice implies giving up something of value to a person; it implies hardship or loss on the part of a person.  And often times it requires the same difficulty and loss on the people around the person choosing to sacrifice.  Yet, sacrifice is vital to the progress of our country.  The ability and willingness to sacrifice is what separates those who want to become a better person from those who are willing to remain stagnant.

Yet, despite the loss, the difficulty, and the hardships, our veterans and those who are enlisting today, choose to invest in our country and the well being of its citizens with each enlistement, service, or tour. Each requires sacrifice.  Their enlistment writes a check to this country that we can’t ever repay them for. Yet, they still are willing. Thank you, even though the words are small, my heartfelt feelings are much larger. Thank you to all of my friends, family, students, and those who enlist, and I’ll never know your name. Thank you for being the personification of sacrifice.

And so, I end with the thought, what would our city, our state, and idealistically our country be like if more people were willing to sacrifice, even on a much smaller level.  Willing to go without something, or to go out of their way for someone else?  My vision for The Pink Behind the Thin Blue Line is just that.  Random acts of kindness and organized ones as well, that require small sacrifices on our part, but leave the world in a better place.  While we can’t all be the personification of sacrifice that our veterans are, we can still leave an impact upon the world with our own small sacrifices.  To all who have served, a thank you isn’t enough, but please know that we hope to honor your sacrifices by being willing to sacrifice of our time, money, and resources to continue to invest in our country in our own way.

Look for more information on The Pink Behind the Thin Blue Line organization, its events, and the sacrifices we are currently planning.  For more information about upcoming events, please visit my Facebook page, The Pink Behind The Thin Blue Line.  If I were more tech savy, I could link it, and I’ll work on that for you.

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