It was four in the morning when she rolled over and couldn’t seem to fall back to sleep. The window was open slightly and it was cold out but she liked the feel and smell of the fresh late fall air. She laid there on her back and watched the ceiling fan slowly spin around and around listened to her husband sleeping soundly next to her, she watched him for a while then decided to forfeit and get out of bed.
She stopped to peek in at her kids before making her way to the kitchen for a drink of water, and then she crossed the dining room to find a spot and curl up on the couch under a cozy throw and watch the clouds slowly pass in front of the moon out the front window.
This happens every now and again, she’ll watch the sky until it begins to turn from black to cobalt blue to shades of orange and yellow as it rises above the park across the street. She won’t turn on the TV, and she won’t read a book. She’ll just sit there and stare out the window at the sky, her throat will turn dry, her palms will begin to sweat and her heart begins to race. She isn’t sick, and she isn’t necessarily a morning person. She is one of the 1.4% of all American women who’ve served in the United States military. She is one of the 5.2% of the United States population who’ve served our country in times of war and conflict.
Those are small numbers; hell, it’s not easy for someone to make the sacrifice that she has made, not even she knew full well what she was in for when she signed up. The morning of the day she made that decision she did what all veterans find themselves doing before they swear in, they look at themselves and take full inventory, for her it was in the bathroom mirror, it was partially fogged over but she looked in her eyes through the reflection nonetheless. She looked at her cheekbones she got from her father, and her nose and chin she got from her mother. She looked at the color in her eyes and the deep seeded need to protect those less fortunate from her grandfather.
She stood there and thought about all that she loved in the world, she thought about her brothers and sisters and the little neighbor boys across the street and how sweet they were to her every time she walked past them to her car to go to work. Their dirty little faces as they played in the puddles in the street. She didn’t have a boyfriend then, nor did she have kids of her own.
She looked in that mirror and thought about all those around the world being oppressed and tortured and killed and brought up hiding in their homes from the fighting in the streets and she made a decision. She decided then and there to do something about it, she looked into her eyes and prayed to her God and with resolution determined the full value of her own life. She decided that her life and blood was worth sacrificing for the good of the young boys across the street, for the freedom of those whose faces she looked at in the news each night. She knows the statistics, she knows that the freedoms granted to the majority are fought for and maintained by the absolute minority. She knows Freedom isn’t free, that there is a price on it and someone has to pay that forward.
What she didn’t realize is that the sacrifices our veterans make doesn’t end when they leave the military, when they are done with their tours of duty. That sacrifice is echoed in their daily lives when they go to the grocery store and find it difficult to determine which box of cereal to choose from knowing there are many whom don’t have that liberty. It is echoed, when they fall awake in the early morning hours just before dawn, and they spend hours looking out at the moon waiting for the safety of the noise of the day to begin, when quiet and stillness is frightening and constantly threatens to spill over your brow in sweat as you relive moments of bloody conflict and turmoil in your sleep.
7.3% of all living Americans have served in the military at some point in their lives. Please say thank you, whether or not you agree with their ideals, they made a conscious decision to sacrifice themselves for the rest of us, and that deserves recognition.