Celebrating Our Nation’s Accidental Heroes

ss-120528-memorial-day-017.ss_fullIt seems that every memorial day, bloggers from LA to New York write thousands of articles expounding the sacrifices of the men and women who died defending our nation. These articles all have roughly the same message, where people are told to stop and to think about all the dead soldiers while they sit and enjoy their BBQ. As I sat at my computer and contemplated how I was going to fulfill my patriotic responsibility of writing an article about how we should spend Memorial Day remembering those who died, I realized that I needed to proceed in a slightly different way. Our country has been blessed throughout its history with men and women who have been willing to sign up to fight this nation’s enemies. These men and women, who chose to give up their youth to answer the call, became accidental heroes when all of the patriotism was washed away and the realities of war were presented to them in vivid color.  It is easy to sign up to go to war.  What the men and women whom we celebrate today did was continue to fight even when they understood what war was really like. That is not easy.

I have been asked several times what I think about the human cost of the Iraq war. People who know my views on the war understand that I think that it was a complete waste of lives and resources, but they are surprised when I say that I am proud of my service. That is what people who have never served can’t understand. Those who have been to war realize quickly that it isn’t about why the war is fought, but that you did your part to help get your buddies home. War is terrible and anyone who has ever been through one understands that the sacrifices in time and blood that we faced could never have been accepted because some grand idea of a global war to defend the American way of life. Most of us thought we were doing good, but it became clear quite quickly that getting everyone back home in one piece was why we put one foot in front of the other. That is why I feel pride in my service and why the men and women who died in the “War on Terror” and in Vietnam deserve just as much honor as those who died in WWII. Those of us who fought in this nation’s wars (from the Revolution to today) did not fight it for the civilians back home, we fought it for ourselves. We fought it so that we could all get the hell out of the desert or the jungle.

This is difficult to explain to civilians and many take it entirely the wrong way. It isn’t that we didn’t care about our loved ones, but no one that I ever served with really thought about the people back home aside from wanting to see them. The war for those of us who spent it outside of the wire was a day to day slog of boredom, suffering, and occasional unimaginable fear. Frankly, it was difficult to be concerned about anything outside of the combat outpost when life sucked so much.

I guess the best reason why Memorial Day is so important and why we should all step back and remember those who gave everything they had to this nation is simple. Those who died chose to do what so many couldn’t even imagine doing.  They chose to give their lives for their fellow man. The motivations for joining the military number as high as the number of people who have ever joined, but when all of the incorrect ideas about war fall away and are replaced by the desire to survive, these men and women still chose to stand with their brothers and sisters.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. – John 15:13

They still chose to fight and some of them never came home.  Answering the call to serve is wonderful, but because they chose to do their job when they understood that the likelihood for death was great, their service became heroic.  For that alone, we should give thanks.

God bless our troops, our veterans, and those who shed their blood for the greatest nation on the planet.

Michael Davis
Senior Editor of Veterans to Christ. Served as a Cavalry Scout from 2005-2009. Iraq Veteran.