SoldierAs I awake on this Memorial Day and look out the window at the rays of sun spreading across the healthy green foliage, I pause to remember.

I reflect on the service of my family and friends in the military, yes. Months of boot camp, tours of duty, post-traumatic stress. These airmen, soldiers, sailors, marines, guard members all serving at various levels with an assortment of decorations. But most of these memories are simply tales to be told at reunions. The troubles Uncle experienced after Vietnam, the hijinks Daddy enjoyed in basic, and the historic barriers Aunt broke. The suicide Classmate committed after Iraq.

The suicide Classmate committed after Iraq.

On days like today, I remember instances and interactions with the United States military members. I recall a time when I saw a young soldier, no more than nineteen, riding on the southbound line of the MARTA train. The young man sat quietly in camouflage, staring at the window, perhaps imagining his future or saying goodbye to his past. I examined the tones of our fellow passengers, each awkwardly averting their gaze from the man-child in battle fatigues.

Why is this awkward? Why will no one look him in his eyes?

As we approached my stop in the financial district, I determined in my mind to thank this brave young boy for his service. Granted, he was not much younger than I was at the time, but by virtue of his commitment, he garnered my respect and support and I would gladly tell him so.

Thank you for your service.

My fellow travelers looked at me with amazed countenances. The young man quietly said “you’re welcome,” exited the left side of the train, and walked to my office with head held high.

It felt good to bring attention to our invisible hero in a climate where people are unsure about how to feel about the wars and conflicts and the people who fight them. Whether or not I personally agree with the mission, I know that these young kids believe in what they are doing. They believe with all their heart that they are doing what is right and honorable and good.

The brief interaction on public transit was not my only ode to our service women and men. I often make it a point to say “hello,” offering simple thanks for thier courage. The response is often one of surprise, followed by gratefulness. Surprise that they are acknowledged by an ordinary, everyday American girl. Gratefulness that they are acknowledged by the same.

Let us not forget that our actions and words matter. We can have an impact. We can make a difference. When we remember the heroes of yesteryear, let us not forget to remember
those who are serving in the here and now. The weekend warriors and lifelong members. You needn’t avoid the celebrated sergeant or the Purple Heart private. They are people. They need validation and appreciation, support and acknowledgment. So spread a little smile, lend a little nod. And when you reflect on the fallen, be not afraid to remember the living, too.


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