Tuesday, May 31, 2011
For God and Country...
Today is memorial day and there's this story that wont give me rest until I write it. It was inspired by a 19 year old boy who wanted to become an army surgeon and died on his first assignment, the summer before he was to start college. Here goes...
Scott Smith Snr. shoveled the first bit of earth onto Scott Smith Jnr.'s coffin as the minister continued to recite a passage from the book of prayer. He wiped his sleeve over his brow as if to get rid of sweat but everybody saw it for the camouflage it was, for it was barely 30 degrees Fahrenheit and many who had been deceived by the early morning sun and had not dressed warmly were visibly shivering.
Everybody pretended not to notice, though. When an ex-marine, who had forgotten more gruesome deaths than the most ardent horror movie aficionado can see in a lifetime, cries at death, you let him be because it is a pain you can never begin to imagine.
So we all watched in deafening silence as his 6 ft 5 inches brawny frame heaved with the racking sobs he was trying rather unsuccessfully to suppress. After an uncomfortably long minute, he gave up all semblance of being in control and sat on the edge of the dug grave, thanking his stars he had not opted to be in uniform that day.
He picked up the high school diploma that had been placed on the coffin and said... "Class valedictorian, 4.0 GPA, so many dreams, bright future ahead, today, I bury my son. And as saddened as I am that I have lost a son, what is choking my words with sobs is pride. I'm proud of the young man who did not look at all the promises and possibilities of a life spent pursuing personal gain, but was prepared to, and indeed gave it all up, for God and country. God bless you, son. And God bless America"
I promise you couldn't have picked my jaw from the ground with a heavy duty crane. To say I was stunned is the understatement of understatements. Patriotism and duty took on new meaning for me. And as someone broke into the American National anthem, I closed my eyes and began to pray... thanking God for the men and women who risk it all for God and country; so that the rest of us could have the freedom to pursue whatever dream we desire... in freedom.
My mind came home to Ghana and I thought how I never really valued the armed forces, especially since the most exposed I got to them was on my television set during the Independence Day Parade. Oh, and during UN peace keeping missions. However, the fact that today (God forbid), should our country be attacked by land, air or sea, they would place themselves in a position to die to protect the rest of us, is commendable.
So as the US remembers it's valiant fallen heroes, I'm thinking of patriotism and duty. I remember this famous quote "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country" (Nathan Hale) and the anecdote about a woman who lost a husband and both sons to the war and yet when interviewed said she only regretted she did not have more sons to give to the cause of the war.
Can you make that sacrifice, can you give up yourself or loved ones up, or God and country?