May 2009 Column Winner

Day to Remember
Mike Tupa, Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise
 
Friday nights used to be different for many of our soldiers in uniform.

Frenzied crowds chanted their names or cheered them on to winning exploits on the gridiron or the basketball court.

They were the hometown heroes, the clean-cut icons who drew praise from everyone, the barber to the store clerk to the pastor.

But, now their weekends are filled with danger which has little to do with whether a blitzing linebacker is going to smash them to the turf.

They deal every day with the possibility of death and devastating injury.

Some come out of the battle basically, or light scathed, having well earned the applause and gratitude from an appreciative citizenry.

Others don't survive the deadly challenges, leaving their youth and promise on the battlefield.
It is this group we remember today. They risked their tomorrows for what they hoped would make a better world.

A gamble? Perhaps.

But, it wasn't for selfish gain or a fast payday.

They paid the price through arduous preparation and enduring wartime conditions of chilling cold, blistering heat, thirst, hunger, pain, bone-weary exhaustion and sometimes overwhelming loneliness.
None of us, who haven't been there, can fully contemplate their silent courage.

The ironic thing is, most of them—if not all—never thought as themselves as heroes.

Some of them may have joined the military because of the great educational benefits, or because they wanted to get out in the world, or because the job market in their area was tough.

In earlier times, many of them were drafted into the service.

In the final analysis, those motivations and compulsions really don't matter.

However they got to the battle's front, they didn't quit.

They pressed on. They were there for each other. They were there for their families. They were there for their country and a way of life they believed was worth the sacrifice and the risk.

Almost none of them chose to die. There were a few who voluntarily gave up their lives by jumping on a grenade or jumping in front of a swarm of bullets to save their comrades.

Regardless of how their blood was spilled, it was sanctified by the magnitude of their mission and the loss of their potential and the sorrow of those they left behind.

Many of the lessons of teamwork and sacrifice they learned on the playing fields of their youth.
Today, we pick up the flag and continue the mission of defending freedom.

Today we remember.