Today is Memorial Day 2014. I have been working with the active military and Veteran population now for the past fifteen years. Over the years I have experienced several epiphanies. Each one providing further clarification as to why I am on this journey.
I experienced another epiphany just moments ago.
Today I decided to watch Black Hawk Down. I have never been one to watch war movies. They have just always hit a little too close to home. I did not even watch this movie as I volunteered to assist with the 20 year anniversary of the Battle of Mogadishu last October. I have the great privilege of knowing many of these noble men and hearing their personal stories. I have never really felt the need to watch an entertainer's depiction/interpretation of their story.
However, today seemed ideal and appropriate. Three quarters of the way through the movie is when it hit me. Clarity struck me and moments of clarity should never be taken for granted. It is almost like another dot was connected in this tangled web of my journey.
I was watching a scene and replacing the actors with the real people they represent. I was feeling the emotion of the situation they were in and relating that to the countless stories that have been shared as well as my knowledge of the personalities of those who share them with me. That is when it hit me.
These brave warfighters need people like me and there are lots of us out there. Much more than the 6:00 news would give credence to. They need civilians that care. Civilians they can trust. Civilians with honor. Civilians who understand their honor. This is not just a feeling. This is not just a good idea. This is not just something I happened to fall into.
No, there is purpose here. There is a noble purpose.
One of the most uncanny dichotomies to me is the raging gap (or perceived gap) between our service members and civilians. Take today for example. I read countless posts from service members shaking their fingers at civilians for saying 'Happy Memorial Day' rather than saying 'Honor Memorial Day'. Many of these people I saw saying Happy Memorial Day had and have the best intentions at heart. They were truly honoring Memorial Day, in the best way they knew how, but they did not use the lingo or exact words that resonates with the community. I find this disheartening because I know that when you are trying and people are chastising you for your care and concern it can feel like you are beating a dead horse.
To flip the coin, I also know there are valid trust issues on behalf of our service members because we live in a society where doing what you say you are going to do is no longer held in high esteem nor considered noble. Our society waivers and lacks conviction on staying the course and traversing the difficult path. Our society rewards selfishness and betrayal which is the antithesis of what my brothers know, espouse and hold dear.
The above coupled with all the negative stories that are projected of people using and manipulating our service members allows me to empathize with the standard operating procedure of distrust.
The truth of the matter is that there are many people out here who have a heart to help, the focus to understand and the perseverance to see it through. There ARE dedicated, compassionate, trustworthy, strong and fierce individuals who wholeheartedly believe in the mission. I know many of them. They have a pure heart with the ability to understand and the tenacity to carry the torch. They have the capacity to stand tough even when doubt is cast in their direction. They have the conviction to say, "I am not going anywhere. I am and will continue to be here".
So, as I was watching these scenes and thinking about all of this it became clear. Crystal clear. It is not just 'nice' our service members have people on the other side to trust. They NEED us to push the ball forward.
The first visual that came to my mind was a relay race baton. Our brothers bravely and boldly carry the baton. They exhaust themselves. They give everything they've got. They lay it all on the line for each other. They NEED us standing at the appropriate spot waiting for the hand-off. When the baton is in our hand they NEED us to run like the wind. They NEED us to stay focused and driven. They need us to run as hard as we can and to finish the race. They need to be able to watch us dig in and also give it all we've got, to tell their story to influence others on their behalf. They NEED us to be good stewards of the baton.
It is through this teamwork that we will conquer. We must train together, enjoy each other, learn from one another and become stronger. For it is this combined strength that will make us formidable, reinforce our resilience and enable us to win the next race.