In the Name of God: the Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord
This morning, I was in line at a local Starbucks getting my coffee when he walked in with his daughter (I presume). He was wearing Army Fatigues, with the words "U.S. Army" on the front of his heavy jacket. They were beige, the color of the desert and that which soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan currently wear. I wasn't the only one who kept eyeing him in the store. But, I couldn't keep my eyes off of him, either.
After I made my order and picked up my drink, I was headed out (on my way to work). Then, I decided to do it: I stopped by him and said, "Thank you for your service. Happy Thanksgiving." He expressed his appreciation and extended his hand to me, which I shook back. It felt great. I wasn't the first one to do it: another customer beat me to the punch, and I wish I had been the first to say, "Thank You." Still, I'm glad that I did it.
Indeed, our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been controversial (to say the very, very least). Yet, that fact did not dissuade me from reaching out to that veteran and thank him for doing what I, and every other able bodied citizen, should have done ourselves in the ideal situation: serve in the U. S. Armed Forces. Yet, for a variety of reasons, I - and the majority of my fellow citizens - have chosen not to do so. Thus, at the very least, I should thank those that have taken my place.
Now, of course, if any soldier commits a war crime, he or she must be tried and punished if convicted. And serving in the military does not give one carte blanche to commit atrocities, no matter how brutal our enemy is. That being said, my issue should be - and is - with those in power who send our fellow citizens in uniform into combat. If we as citizens oppose our military actions around the world, we should take that opposition up - in a peaceful manner - with those in power who make such decisions. The recent outcry against military action in Syria is the most recent example.
We shouldn't take that opposition out on a U.S. soldier - home for the holidays with his family, or maybe on his way to being deployed - who is getting coffee and a bagel at a local Starbucks with his daughter. We should thank them. And I'm very glad I did this morning.
This is what Thanksgiving really is all about. First and foremost, it is thanking God for all of His endless bounty on us: including the fact that we live in a country with a volunteer military, whereby we can freely choose whether or not to serve and put our lives in harm's way. But, also, it is thanking others: our parents, our spouses, our co-workers, our friends, our neighbors, and - as I was given the opportunity today - those fellow citizens who have chosen to put their lives in danger on our behalf.
I pray that the soldier I thanked today will not have to fight in any more wars. I pray that he can return to normal life and watch his beautiful daughter grow up to be a beautiful woman. I pray that he can live a life of peace and tranquility that I, and millions of my fellow citizens, take for granted.
But, if that doesn't come to pass, then I can at least thank him for serving in our military and defending our country. It is the right thing to do.
A most happy and blessed Thanksgiving to each and every one of you.