Growing up in a military town, honor had a very specific meaning to me. It meant service to country. It meant being a good citizen. It meant respect for others. In that town, military men and women were respected as heroes.
I was sorry to find that concept of honor wasn’t as widespread outside military towns. Oh, there are plenty of people who feel as I do. But there are also plenty of people who think soldiers are war-obsessed idiots or were tricked into serving. Those views demean the people who protect us.
Yes, sometimes I wish war didn’t exist. I wish everyone in every country was given freedom. But that’s not the case. And freedom — it’s worth fighting for.
I was reminded of that this week as I read about the recent massacre in Syria. I thought about it as I followed the story of Chen Guangcheng as he escaped persecution in China. We, who have experienced freedom our entire lives, have lost sight of its value. And when we forget how precious it is, we lose respect for the men and women who fight for it.
We shake our heads at the loss of life and mutter “what a waste.” And in doing so, we dishonor those who fought for something bigger than themselves, for people they had never met, for freedom.
This country does not go to war lightly. See, we have this thing about persecution and evil. We don’t like it. And because we are a powerful country, governed by freedom, we have trouble standing by while innocent people are being persecuted and massacred.
Sadly, we lose some of our soldiers in the process. And so I honor them by remembering. I honor them by valuing the freedom they knew was worth the fight. And I thank them, and the families they left behind, for their sacrifice. And when that flag was and is handed to a grieving family “on behalf of a grateful nation,” I am that grateful nation.