“We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm”.
With Veterans Day quickly approaching it seems doubly important to recognize the immeasurable debt we have, as Americans, to our service men and women. This is obviously something that hits incredibly close to home for me, but especially so this week.
Kyle and Brittany were one of my first wedding clients. I met with Brittany and her mom in just the second full year of my business; they were seeking a photographer that was still open as they had to quickly change their wedding day due to Kyle’s impending deployment. Brittany was the second child of the family to get married, also to a military man, like her sister Sam. They knew the risks and sacrifices of marrying into the military, and yet were so proud and honored to be doing so. Brittany’s family was clearly proud of their daughter for her choices, and proud of their new son-in-law for the honorable way he was serving his nation, and taking care of their daughter. Their love for each other is clearly visible in the way in which they look at each other, and the tenderness of the vows they shared. Brit and Kyle quickly became our favorite wedding clients, and when they moved out near my home I attended their housewarming party, liking the idea that we lived closer to each other. As time went on, I was invited to take pictures at Brittany’s sister’s wedding the following year, forming close bonds with the rest of Brit & Kyle’s family.
We all know what we’re getting into when we love someone in the military. The families and loved ones of those who serve are some of the strongest people I know. Any separation from someone you love is tough, especially so when you know that they are in dangerous situations. From my experiences with my brother’s deployment, with my cousin, with Dan, its best to just pray and convince yourself that it is in God’s hands, to substitute strength for fear, and to be supportive even when you feel you can’t… But one is never prepared for the worst case scenario…
Over the weekend Kyle was involved in a harsh attack in Afghanistan. The truck he, and three other brave men were in, was hit by an IED. In the aftermath of the attack, only one of them men survived, Kyle. I know that Kyle’s survival is such an incredible blessing despite the serious injuries that he incurred and the devastating emotional toll it will take on both Kyle and his family, I know that he is blessed and loved. But my heart still aches. For Kyle’s family and the hours of waiting for news and hope, for Kyle’s wife Brittany whose strength and endurance will surely be tested, and for the families and loved ones of those boys, the ones who will never come home, I find myself on the verge of tears.
I am awestruck by the bravery of a soldier. To be willing to place their lives at risk for the safety and freedom of people they don’t even know is so noble. I’m not sure that I could do the same under the best of circumstances, and certainly not when we are not enjoying a time of peace. I am humbled by their ability to handle the inhumanity of combat and the terrors of war time countries that I cannot possibly begin to understand. Sometimes, it is hard for me to wrap my mind around the purpose of this sacrifice, especially when I think about the men in my life that are currently serving our country.
It completely blows my mind to think about my close friends and family who are currently serving. When we were kids and my cousin Ryan was a whiny little runt, I would never have thought that one day he would be hundreds of miles from home, selflessly standing up for the rights and freedoms of others. The surge of pride I feel for him is overwhelming.
As tensions rise in the Middle East, in Europe, in South America and our military personnel willingly head off to diffuse potentially dangerous situations, performing the tasks they have been trained to do to keep us safe, please remember them in your prayers. Those men and women are walking away from the people who love them and toward danger, so that you can remain close to those that you love.
As they sacrifice time with their families, put other career opportunities on hold, and forgo their personal security and comfort seeking neither fortune nor fame and receiving neither, in turn can we strive to be responsible citizens ourselves? Considering election day is tomorrow, I can think of nothing of greater importance than to be informed and responsible voters. I think about my students an how self absorbed they can be, how in tune they are with their cell phones and their facebook status and how little they know about local elections, how they refuse to stand to say the pledge…I only hope that I can be a patriotic example to them and can foster a respect for those in uniform. I hope I can demonstrate to them a heart of service, inspire in them a desire to volunteer for the greater good, give them hope for the future.
It’s hard to know what to say or how to thank someone who performs such a great service to me, to my family, to my country. So for Kyle, I pray for healing, and that he knows the deep respect and gratitude that we, as a nation, have for him and the role he has played in our lives and security.
To the families of Kyle’s companions, Staff Sgt. Dain T. Venne, Spc. Ryan P. Jayne, and Spc. Brett E. Gornewicz, nothing will ever be sufficient to thank you for all they have done, I cannot imagine your loss.
So, every day, on election day, on veterans day, I say thank you to all the men and women whose lives are dedicated to our nation’s protection. And to “my” soldiers, I am so, so proud of you.
“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.” -Cynthia Ozick