Serving those who served

Published 8:20 pm Wednesday, November 10, 2010

For as long as I knew my “Uncle Jim,” my great-uncle, he was in a wheelchair. Uncle Jim had been injured as a very young man in World War II and he still had pain, my dad told me.

Uncle Jim never did talk about it.

But in his old Victorian-style home, in its well-manicured, white picket-fenced neighborhood, hung a symbol of his sacrifice.

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There hung, in his floor-to-ceiling front window, a large American flag.

His neighbors had asked him to take it down, but the flag didn’t leave that window until the house was sold after he passed away.

It’s been more than 100 years since full-fledged warfare breached American borders.

For those of us who have not had a loved one in the military or personally felt the cost of what it takes to protect those borders, it’s hard to comprehend the sacrifice others make on our behalf.

My great-uncle’s silent suffering was the closest I ever came to understanding or seeing the sacrifice.

Since he passed away, I’ve only glimpsed that sacrifice through the lives of others. I met a young woman who battled cancer with the help of her military husband. I heard the stories of a man who saw others die before his eyes in Vietnam. I know a young woman whose husband was killed in the CIA bombings in Afghanistan last year.

They all made sacrifices that surpass my ability to empathize. My sympathy they have, but empathy — the ability to identify with their pain — is beyond my ability.

But their stories are evidence of what many have not yet seen.

Buildings may not be burning around us, and we may not live in constant fear of the sound of missiles, but in another part of the world our men and women see and hear both.

Thanks to them, those horrors aren’t a part of our daily lives.

Men and women continue to put their lives on the line for us.

Some give the ultimate sacrifice, and their families bear the burden of the loss.

Sometimes they’re spared; others are kept safely within the borders of the United States. But they all give something so we can enjoy a life of freedom.

Veterans Day is a time for us to remember the cost of that freedom.

But, I sincerely hope this one day isn’t the only time we remember to thank our veterans and their families for their service and willingness to sacrifice for our country.

They spend their lives serving us and in many cases, they give their lives to serve us.

It’s our turn to serve them.