The choices we make

by Annette Bridges. ©2006. All rights reserved.

Service to this country through the armed forces has long been a choice made by many members of my family – my dad, two of my brothers, my uncle (who lost a leg in WWII), my father-in-law and currently, my son-in-law. I have great respect, admiration and gratitude for all who have made the choice to protect and preserve peace and freedom for all mankind.

Recently, I was humbled to learn about Pat Tillman’s choice to give up a lucrative football career to become an Army Ranger. His ultimate sacrifice has caused me to think about the purpose of Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day or Armed Forces Day. Why do we build monuments or designate days of honor?

Perhaps we need reminders of important events and people that have taught us invaluable lessons. Perhaps commemorating honorable acts encourages us to live that way in our daily activities.

For my family, Memorial Day has been a celebration of the end of the school year, completion of another year of dance lessons and the beginning of summer vacation. Honestly, I didn’t know the history of Memorial Day until doing an internet search.

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed in 1868 when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. It wasn’t until after WWI that the day was changed to honor all American soldiers who died. More recently in 2000, the National Moment of Remembrance resolution was passed to remind Americans of the true meaning of Memorial Day.

So, I’m taking a moment now to remember the courage and sacrifice of the United States military. Soldiers and their families make enormous sacrifices for the security of our nation and freedom throughout the world. I’m proud and grateful of the few that chose this path.

Mary Baker Eddy, a 19th century author and spiritual thinker who devoted her life to the service of helping those who sought healing and freedom from illness, made this profound statement: “The character and lives of men determine the peace, prosperity and life of nations.” As I appreciate the dedication and selfless commitment of these individuals, I consider how the choices I make in life impact others – my family, my community, and consequently, my nation. Perhaps we do all have a role in the peace, prosperity and life of our nation. Or at least some part of it.

I have a choice in what I think, what I believe, how I perceive, how I interpret. These choices result in a response, action, decision, and conclusion. They make me who I am. Maybe I make a difference in the world, in my country, by how I live my life.

President John F. Kennedy’s famous call to service comes to mind when he declared, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

Some of us will serve our country in military duty.

Some of us will serve our country in volunteerism and community service.

Some of us will serve our country in government leadership.

But all of us serve our country by our character and lives. We have choices to make. Let’s make good ones.