As Memorial Day approaches once again, I find myself thinking of the men and women who serve this country in all of the various branches of the Armed Forces or of the Reserves, and those who died in that service. I know some of them personally, as I think we all do, and I don’t say “Thank You” enough. I also find myself thinking of the policemen, firemen, and other people I know in the community who risk their lives to keep us all safe, and serve our communities in life, and sometimes in death, too. I found myself pondering the sacrifices of these extraordinary people, but more than that, I found myself wondering about their lives. Who were they? What did they leave behind? The thought occurred to me that the best memorial I can give them is to remember not just their service, nor their deaths, but also their lives–to remember that each of them was someone’s daughter or son, perhaps someone’s sister or brother, and possibly someone’s lover. They lived much the same lives that we live, only they set theirs aside to answer a call to service from a nation that needed them, and for that we should all be grateful.

     Awhile ago, I received an invitation to be one of the hoped for thousands who lined the streets of Gainesville, Georgia to welcome Charlie Company home. My schedule was as busy as always, my life over-filled with the joys and heartaches of living, and I tried and failed to squeeze that invitation into my schedule. I wanted to go, and if given the chance, I will go the next time.

      I look forward to standing there, waving my flag, and remembering again what it sometimes means to give everything for something I believe in. I will hold my flag as high as my 5’2” frame can manage, and wave it proudly, in celebration and in remembrance. In celebration of the victory of life, and the preservation of a way of life.  In remembrance of those who have gone before, those who came home when no flags were waving, those who came back with their flag draped over them, and for those who never had the chance to come back home at all.

     I’m reminded of an oath I took, on a special day, eight years ago. It was the same oath the soldiers take, though I was not serving in that capacity, but I wonder if it meant the same to me , as it does to them, or if it possibly could mean the same, since I haven’t served. I said the words, but I wonder if I really understood their meaning, or the potential consequences of the words I spoke that day. “To defend the US Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic.” The words conjure an image of a faceless entity hiding behind a tree, ready to spring out and attack the paper representation of the Constitution. Foreign enemies are easier to spot, and perhaps easier to defend against.

     Now, as I think back on that day, I wonder what kind of domestic enemies the Constitution faces. What of the enemies such as companies that are still outsourcing jobs, companies considered icons of American culture, whose every product for sale reads, “Made in China” on the tag? Moral questions of sweatshops aside, is this responsible stewardship in a time where our own unemployment rate has reached upwards of 10 percent? Do companies have a responsibility to give back to the culture that supports them? I don’t know about you, but if a company doesn’t understand the principles of loyalty to customers, they don’t deserve my loyalty in return. If they are not with me when I am down and out, then should I be with them when I am up and coming?

     What of those politicians (not all of them, mind you, but some) who are corrupt? When those with whom we’ve placed the greatest responsibility for ensuring that the ideals of the Constitution are upheld, fail in their sacred obligation, are we duty bound to boot them out of office? If we don’t, is that akin to an act of treason?

     I think our generation may face some of the same tests our Founding Fathers faced. Those who signed the Declaration of Independence knew that they were committing High Treason against the crown of Britain, and would be tried and hanged for treason if the Americans lost the Revolution. They made the choice to do it anyway. Now we face several of the greatest threats to our sovereignty since that time. Foreign enemies abound, but perhaps the most dangerous threats come from within. The companies who outsource and trade loyalty for cheapness. The corrupt politicians who abuse the power we’ve granted them. The immigrants who come illegally (again, not all of them do), who try to impose their culture on our own, instead of assimilating their own customs and ours into a mesh that makes them something—American instead of just the something.  

     Yes, I will wave my flag when Charlie Company comes home, and try to defend the Constitution to the best of my ability, which might mean not buying certain products because of where they are made, which can also cause other problems, since they are sold here, by American workers. I will try to meet the tests we face to our sovereignty to the best of my ability, and hope I am strong enough.  After all, an oath is an oath, and I take my responsibilities very seriously. Above all, I will remember, and say, “Thank You”, and try to live my life in such a way that I am worthy of the sacrifice these fine people have made. I hope you will, too.

Happy Memorial Day.