Monday, May 26, 2008
Memorial Day is a poignant time for me as the sacrifices our service members make for the freedoms we enjoy every day are near and dear to my heart. My dad's dad, my grandfather Hoppy was killed right before I was born in service to his country. He was a test pilot killed in a plane crash in the Philippines. My mom's dad is a veteran of the Korean War, he too was a career military man - a General before he retired.
My dad is a veteran too. He flew F-16's in the Air Force and fought in both the Kosovo air campaign and Operation Iraqi Freedom back in 2003 when we first invaded Iraq. In fact, when we first started the air campaign in Kosovo, my dad was the first to enter Kosovar airspace the night we started bombing - he was out in front ahead of all the other fighter jets, the heavy tankers, bombers and helicopters. We were living in Germany at the time; he was stationed at Spangdahlem AFB near Bitburg. He and his squadron deployed down to Aviano AFB, Italy, where the campaign was launched from. After the bombing had gone on for a while, the squadron came home and flew every night launching their missions from Germany. He would come home in the morning and sleep all day and leave again at night to fight the war. It was a weird, scary time. I remember when we lost an F-16 over there and my mom and my sister and I just sat riveted to CNN wondering... During OIF, my dad was stationed at Aviano AFB and deployed to the region. He wasn't in Iraq but at an airbase nearby. He was an Operations Group Commander at that time. I was about to start grad school and I flew home to Italy and spent those months with my mom.
Now my own boyfriend is a veteran - off fighting Operation Enduring Freedom. I asked him why he didn't call me yesterday and he said, "I'm fightin' a war, babe." His performance evaluation last year commended him for work "resulting in the death or capture of numerous terrorists." It's real. Even though it seems very far away from most people's lives, it's very personal for me.
My friend Matt, too, who's been in Iraq for four years now because he just can't bring himself to leave. He's also a veteran of the war in the Balkans, from his prior military service. I tell him he's a hero and he says no. Those boys and girls who are going outside the wire every day - they are the heroes. True, but so is he.
I hope on this Memorial Day that your thoughts go out to all of our brave warriors who are sacrificing so much to protect the ideals of freedom and democracy. Especially those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. They should never be far from our hearts and minds because their sacrifice secures our right to enjoy every freedom we have. I hope everyone has fun today barbecuing and playing outside with your friends and families, but I hope you pause for a moment to remember the men and women who died for our freedoms and those who are far away fighting for them now.