Tomain's Blog

Its a pretty good deal | February 2, 2010

 I was hard at work one day when Tom came walking by. My work station was right next to the bathrooms so in a given day I pretty much saw everybody. Tom had been working for us for a short time and I hadn’t been introduced to him really. There was an unmistaken cockiness to his gait and his appearance and in my younger days I know he would have raised my hackles. In my youth I was even more a fool than I am now so even though he was obviously a bodybuilder it wouldn’t have mattered to me. However I’m not that fool now so I engaged Tom with some small talk. It turned out Tom had just recently returned from Iraq. At that point I held out my hand and told him I wanted to thank him for his service. His facial expression and entire demeanor instantly changed. He thanked me back and told me people like me made it all worthwhile. A few months later Tom was killed in a motorcycle accident. He was no longer working for our company having quit for good cause. The news of his death brought back the memory of that moment we shared by my work station. The entire exchange took at most a couple of minutes and yet it is something I will never forget. Tom was obviously moved and so was I. We did not become friends or socialize together even at work. He quite literally went his way and I went mine. However we were forever bonded, he the soldier and I the grateful citizen.

My father was a veteran of World War II. He served in Europe and came home with a collection of Nazi daggers and some other memorabilia. Upon my mother’s death these things passed into my possession. On occasion I gather them together to examine and admire. It brings back memory of my

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 father of course but it does even more than that. I think of the men landing at Normandy, pushing into that nightmarish curtain of lead and screams and smoke. I think of the pilots in The Battle of Midway. Entire squadrons sacrificing themselves so that those who came behind them could land their punches. The Battle of the Bulge, where men in foxholes faced down Nazi tanks and the bitter cold. Where men ignored their war wounds so they could stand side by side with their buddies to face whatever came. I think of Iwo Jima, Tarawa, and Guadalcanal. I think of men charging pill boxes so those behind them could advance. Of medics who gave their lives to save as many of the fallen heroes as they could. I think of these and the countless other moments of courage that I’ll never know about and yet most certainly happened.

The members of our Armed Forces have a responsibility. They have certain duties that vary but ultimately their responsibility can be summed up quite simply. No matter where or when they are posted or whether the year is 1944 or 2010, the responsibility is the same. Their charge is the security and the safety of their country and it’s citizens. If called upon, to sacrifice their lives. Now that is quite a responsibility.

So then what is the responsibility of the citizen in this pact, this partnership. Well there are certain contractual obligations like medical benefits, educational benefits, etc. borne by the government. But what about the individual citizen what is his or her obligation. Well it too can be summed up simply. Our obligation, our responsibility is to be grateful. To say thank you when the opportunity arises. It’s a pretty good deal and the real kicker is that when you say thank you to those who serve or have served, it makes you feel good. Yes its a pretty good deal for us citizens but if you ask a veteran the chances are they will tell you its a pretty good deal for them too.

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