Today our ward (congregation) had a 4th of July breakfast. To one side of the room we were eating in, there were several tables set up. On each of the tables, members of the ward who had served in the military were asked to bring and display some of their mementos--uniforms, medals, etc.
One of the mementos literally brought tears to my eyes and I got so choked up I couldn't speak.
There was a picture of a very young man--eighteen or nineteen years old in a military uniform--ready to report to Vietnam.
On the table next to the photo was a very large paper heart. Lace had been glued around the edges and a poem had been written carefully on the paper. The handwriting was clearly that of young women.
I don't remember the words of the poem exactly, but the idea was that there are times that you have to do things you'd rather not and it's important to make difficult choices even when there are other directions you'd rather go. It was signed by three women.
When I saw that, I thought of young men and women--friends hanging out and enjoying each other's company. I thought of parties and dates and dances. I thought of newly graduated seniors, ready to take the world on and start their lives.
I thought, to be candid, of my own sons and their friends. Youth, energy, hopes, dreams, and the beginning of lives.
And then I thought of war--of suffering and violence and death. I thought of ugliness and brutality and I wept.
I wept at the young lives cut down. I wept at the incredible bravery and valor of those who left their friends and dreams behind and answered their country's call, risking everything. They risked their lives, but even those who came back alive lost something precious that they can never retrieve--years of living. They lost Saturday nights at the drive-in and sunsets and slow dances and kisses. They lost their ability to look at the world in naive innocence. Multiply that by tens of thousands and the human cost is staggering
This is why I love and am grateful for those who have served, those who have answered their country's call. All of them have made a sacrifice of heartbreaking, staggering proportions and we owe them our thanks.
Monday, when I eat my potato salad and watermelon and shoot fireworks, I'll do so in peace and prosperity due in part to the brave people who have given up their own lives so I can live mine.
It is these brave people--volunteers, draftees, and professionals who sing the battle hymn of our republic. Think of them and all they gave up as you listen to the quintessential performance of this song.
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