Memorial Day

Seven years ago, I wrote this:

Our friend’s son was killed in Afghanistan yesterday. I did not know him. I have only a vague memory of him shooting hoops with his dad. I can’t imagine what it feels like, to have this empty space where there once was a son and a future filled with marriage and children and annoyance and beauty. Empty now.

I think of this young man who wanted to serve his country, who had so many other choices, all of which would have led to life. He chose to serve his country.

I don’t agree with this war or the one in Iraq. We entered these wars on the whim of a president who thought war was a game, who thought he was too important to serve in Vietnam.

Our friend’s son, this one young man, volunteered during a time of war.

I walked today on quiet streets. I stopped and talked with moms about how hard it is to go shopping with teenage girls.

My children have lived innocent lives, not worrying about a bomb going off or enemy warplanes. They live in safety because every day, some young man or woman wants to serve this country.

We don’t know these young men and women, but we owe them everything: every birthday party, every meal, every quiet morning and even every commute to work.

I don’t agree with this war. We as citizens have a huge responsibility, which we have shirked, to only send our soldiers into battles which directly ensure our safety.

No matter what my feelings about the war, my feeling for these young men and women is one of extreme gratitude. We are safe because of them. We complain about broken washing machines, the weather and traffic, because we really have few other worries. These soldiers are carrying us all on their shoulders. They and their families.

Our friend’s son died for our country yesterday. Because of him, my daughter at her track meet today and the students that I tutor tonight will give no thoughts to bombs or war. All because this young man and others like him choose to serve our country.

Now he is gone, leaving an empty chair at his family’s dinner table.

I owe him so much, and I didn’t even know him.