A young man from my town has come home from Afghanistan.
I wish I could say that he came home to greet his family and friends. Unfortunately, he came home in a flag-draped coffin.
I never had the chance to meet this young man. I know he walked and drove the same streets I do, he ate in the same restaurants, and that he played high school sports, and was a member of student government.
I also know that his family is in the midst of shock and grief, and that our town is preparing to give him a hero’s welcome upon his return.
I have been giving thought today to the nature of patriotism, and the nature of love of country.
I am a talk show host, and I write a column now and then when I have the time and when the muse strikes. And even though I have been making an effort to “elevate the discussion” lately, I wonder if I and those in my line of work would have the intestinal fortitude to do what this young man did. In the Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln called it “the last full measure of devotion”
On Friday, the United States went lost its Triple A credit rating.
Right away, the Democrats blamed the Tea Party and the Republicans pointed the finger at the White House. And of course, columnists, bloggers and talk show hosts on each side of the issue began exchanging fusillades regarding who brought us to this sorry state and how they did it. And there is nothing wrong with full-throated debate, as Juan Williams once put it.
That is something that is quintessentially American.
But I am left now to wonder if in recent years we have come to regard expressing our patriotism solely as outrage, by giving vent to our anger on the air, storming the state capitols and finding new and creative invectives to hurl at one another; all the while forgetting the names and faces, and stories of those like this young man who went to Afghanistan fully aware that he might be seeing his family and friends for the last time…and went anyway.
He went because he loved his country and because he had wanted all his life to be a Marine.
He went so that we wouldn’t have to. He went so that we could debate, argue, protest, vote and do all of the things that we all too often take for granted in this nation.
The flags in my town are at half-staff today and will remain so for the balance of the week. More and more flags are appearing on houses and buildings across town as more and more people recognize the sacrifice of this young man and his family. And God has said to him “Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Master.”