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​They Paid for It, Have We Earned It?

They Paid for It, Have We Earned It? A Meditation on Memorial Day

of my favorite movie lines of all time is when Tom Hanks tells Matt Damon in
Saving Private Ryan with his last breath, “Earn This”. He was referring to his own life and the
lives of his men that were lost fighting and searching for him behind enemy
lines. For many people Memorial Day is a
long weekend, a BBQ or the perfect time to dust off the old surf board and hit
the beach. For some of us who have
served or lost close friends and family members who served in our armed forces,
it’s a time to reflect and celebrate their lives and sacrifices. We know full well that there is nothing wrong
with enjoying the long weekend, the burgers, or breaching a cold one, but is it
possible that we are missing the bigger picture? This Memorial Day maybe we
should be asking ourselves if we are worthy of their sacrifice? If we could
transport to Valhalla and survey every service member who has paid the ultimate
price and died for this country, would they say it was worth it? Would they look at how we are living our
lives and the direction of our nation and say, “yeah, I would do it all over
again”? I know much better men than me
dedicate their lives to those who have given it all and making sure that they
are “earning it” each and every day.

Sadly, the world is a much more
dangerous place today. Thousands of
Americans have died fighting terrorism since I joined the Navy, Sept 19th 2001;
one week after the twin towers came crashing down. This tells me many things, one thing in
particular surrounding memorial day.
There will be many more serving today and many who haven’t even signed
up yet that will have to pay with their own lives for our freedoms and our way
of life. Some people see this as a very sad thing. I see it completely differently. When young men and women continue to sign on
the dotted line agreeing to years of service away from friends, family and home
with the possibility of losing their very lives; it is an amazing thing that
makes my heart swell with pride. It
tells me that I’m not alone in my pride and emotion for this great nation too and
that America is still worth fighting for. As the ranks in Valhalla fill and
grow with brave men and women who gave it all on the battle field, we will have
many more heavenly eyes looking down upon us.

People say all the time, “we will
never forget” and we honestly believe that but let’s be honest for a
second. Though our intentions are good
and we want to show the utmost respect and homage; the years go on and our
lives transform and grow within the days, months and years without much of a
fuss over their memories. I myself am
guilty of this very thing. A SEAL mom
and friend of mine recently told me that her biggest fear was that her son
would be forgotten. His name was Marc
Lee. Though I didn’t know him, I was
roughly 30 miles away from him when he was killed in Ramadi, Iraq. He was the first SEAL to be KIA in OIF
(Operation Iraqi Freedom). There were
many before him and will unfortunately be many after him that will valiantly
follow him to the ranks of Valhalla. Do
we talk about these men and women enough?
Do we educate and teach our children about whom the real heroes are? Do
they know that freedom isn’t free and that there is evil in the world that
would love to take everything we hold so dear away from us?

So what can we do to “Earn
This?” I think it’s different for all
us. We can all strive to be better human
beings, better husbands and wives, better sons and daughters, better parents to
our children. We can get outside of our comfort
zones and grow as individuals, intellectually, physically, and spiritually. We can love more. We can be better Americans. We can tune in,
educate, participate and care about the direction of this country. We can fight
for her. The United States of America has been a beacon of light around the
world for a very long time representing freedom, liberty, equality and
democracy. Of course we are not perfect but we should be proud of this country
and what we have done and accomplished within our borders and abroad. I know
for a fact that is something that our service men and women looking down on us
really cared about. From the moment we
all showed up at our respective boot camps we were all taught to love, cherish and
defend America. If we all did a little
more of these things I feel very confident that those who have paid the
ultimate price with their lives would look down and say, “yeah, I would do it
all over again, they are earning it!”

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