Sunday, July 3, 2011

July 4th Celebrates Our Freedom Which Is Anything But Free

This morning in church the processional hymn was America The Beautiful. As the music swelled and the full congregation sang the words, I found myself getting tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. Not only was I acutely aware of how much I have enjoyed growing up in America but also how drastically different things are today than they were when I brought my own children into the world. I thought of the thousands of men and women in the Armed Forces who bravely volunteer to protect those of us at home. They protect all of us even those who do not support them or their mission. I know of a young man who just went on his third tour of duty leaving behind his wife and four children for a year. The two older children are in middle school and high school, and they long for their father to come home and be with them. Telephone calls, emails, and SKYPE video calls help to ease their anguish about his safety and are certainly better than no contact at all. Yet it is hard being their ages and on a daily basis needing and wanting to tell their father about what is happening in their lives, to ask for his advice, to spend time with him, to get a reassuring hug from him and not being able to do any of these things. The two younger children are adorable little girls who are 5 and 3 years old. They adore their Daddy and can break your heart as they see him and hear him via SKYPE and plead with him to come home because they miss him. They cry and sob and don't understand why he went away and why he doesn't come home because they know he loves them. I cannot even imagine being a father trying to be strong and not allowing such heart-wrenching conversations with children to affect your ability to do the dangerous job you so selflessly volunteered to do. I cannot even imagine being his young wife trying to keep home and family going while having to deal with her own stress, loneliness and worry about her husband's safety. Think of what they all are missing in terms of their lives together. That scenario is repeated in thousands of families all across the nation. How can any of us not be grateful for the sacrifices entire families are making for those of us who are safe at home? How can we not be glad to live in this country that has allowed us incredible freedom, safety and opportunity? It is true that at the present time we are in the midst of political unrest with an ever-widening rift between the parties. However, we might all want to take a lesson from the young men and women risking their lives for us. They are all for one and one for all, trying to face their daily challenges, bravely taking life-threatening risks, and being loyal to each other and to America. They are not bickering, name calling, slandering, mud-slinging or behaving in self-serving ways. That would be our elected officials doing those things. I am convinced that if every elected official would decide to conduct himself/herself with integrity, maturity, professionalism, and determination to serve the public which they were elected to do that the problems we face would indeed be resolved. Except for earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, and tornadoes ALL of our problems are manmade. If we caused them then we can surely solve them, and we don't have to risk our lives daily to do so as our young men and women in the military are doing. As we celebrate with our backyard BBQ's, beach parties, and fireworks displays let us stop and remember exactly what it is we are celebrating and the supreme price that brave men and women paid and continue to pay so that we can be free.

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