Thursday, July 30, 2009

Remembering the Price of a Nice Day

One of my most cherished summer vacations came in the days immediately after the end of my Plebe Year at West Point. With the rigors and demands of Plebe Year behind me, I made my way to Fort Bliss, Texas, where my father was attending the U.S. Army Sergeants' Major Academy in preparation for his promotion to Command Sergeant Major and the fulfilment of the highest career goal an enlisted soldier in the United States Army can achieve. After relishing a few lazy days to just relax and regroup, my father invited me to accompany him to a social gathering of other "E-9"'s from the Army and as well as those from other branches of the military who were also attending the Academy.

One of his more colorful comrades whom I had the privilege of meeting was a Marine Corps Sergeant Major - a Recon Marine, Sergeant Major Solomon. He was a "typical" Marine - which means he wasn't typical to any average person you would ever meet - VERY highly motivated, very confident and very proud to tell you why he felt the Marines did everything better than everyone else and very ready to prove it! While these "Top Sergeants" were conversing, a bumper sticker on Sergeant Major Solomon's car caught my attention. It read, "Have a nice day America. Your Marine Corps is ON DUTY!" The truth of that statement grabbed me, especially in the context of standing in a parking lot alongside veteran service personnel who had all served their country sacrificially and had never forgotten the price that accompanies the freedoms all Americans enjoy so readily and that many Americans just as readily to often take for granted. It's just too easy to forget that while we work, play and sleep in comfort and safety, brave people driven by a love a freedom and a devotion to the principles for which this nation stands face continuous and innumerable perils for our benefit.

That is why any reminders of the cost at which our freedoms are maintained are appropriate and worth noting. I received such a reminder this morning as a friend and West Point classmate forwarded an article to me recounting the homecoming of an Illinois National Guard unit that her husband commands and that has just completed a tour of duty in Afghanistan. The Chicago Tribune article is entitled, "Not Everyone Comes Home". It is an excellent and touching article. The title alone stands a simple reminder that even when we celebrate the return of those who have served in harm's way, there are absences that go unnoticed by casual observations but that are all too conspicuous by those who returned alive, their families and the families of those who perished in the service of the nation.

After finishing the article, it occurred to me that had I not received this reminder, I would have very likely gone about my daily tasks without quite remembering that I am able to enjoy many pleasures casually because of people for whom the word "casual" in no way applies to any aspect of their lives. They are always "on" - standing ready to drop everything to confront the adversaries of liberty, even at the risk of their own lives. All of this, so that the rest of can "have a nice day."

As you consider the rest of your day, let me give you a little homework. When you have a little free time, click on the link I have included in this entry and reflect once again on the challenging work that is being carried out by those who serve in the military. When you've finished, think of how you might offer a personal message of gratitude to someone who is serving, has served, or who is paying a price themselves by being the surviving family member of someone who has demonstrated "the last measure of devotion." It will be a tribute that is well-deserved and much appreciated. Also, from now on, whenever someone addresses you with the benedictory salutation, "Have a Nice Day", use it as a reminder to remember the needs of those who are serving and the life-changing sacrifices they make for us all. Now, go on! Have a nice day! Just promise to remember how much it costs.

Until next time...


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