Memorial Day comes once a year, but my thanks for members of the military extends further. With the rest of our country’s citizens, I owe a debt of gratitude to all of you who have served in the military, especially those who have paid the costs of your service in small-yet-significant ways. “Thanks for your service” doesn’t seem to say enough, so let me add these few words to express my remembered gratitude for your time in the armed forces.
I want to acknowledge the perhaps-hidden costs that have lingered: Wounds of body and spirit, years of lost or delayed opportunities, destructive attitudes that have not diminished, fears and anxieties that don’t go away. Not just those associated with combat—strong memories of death and danger—but also your long-ago outlays of youthful spirit and motivation. You may still be paying the costs of exposure to Agent Orange, oil field fires or burn pits. Your self-worth may still be scarred by having been ignored or taken for granted. By less-than-adequate health care or other benefits.
Something else to remember gratefully: It’s also possible that you’ve benefitted from your enlistment. You may not have been harmed irreparably by what you encountered or endured. You might have gained wisdom and maturity—humility and kindness, too—as you participated in the larger task of protecting this country or confronting evil. You may have become a better person—parent, spouse, citizen, friend, worker, neighbor, church member—because of your military service. Those blessings could have balanced the costs.
Because of your military service, you have for decades ensured my safety, my abilities to fulfil God’s will, my participation in democracy’s other manifestations. Today I remember you as part of God’s providential hand in my life.
And so I thank you.
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