The front page story of the Washington Post this weekend, “Glimpses of War,” reminded me just how easy it is to forget the thousands of troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan and the sacrifices they and their families make for our country. For most of us these are wars of distance both emotionally and in reality. We go about our day to day never really impacted directly by events half a world away. But we do have reminders.
Close to home at my company we have members who have served both in non combatant and combat roles, including Eric McDonald, who was a part of the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) in Iraq and is now medical director at Southern Maryland Hospital Center. Some speak freely of the time spent in service to their country, others are more reserved about sharing that experience. I can only presume that what they have experienced makes a busy shift in the ER a lot less stressful in comparison.
For most of us, though, the wars are experienced through the evening news, as in when tragedies occur such as the shooting down of a helicopter in Afghanistan. We catch glimpses of soldiers returning or deploying in airports as we travel for vacation or business. We see them honored at ball games and in the local paper.
Many of us, as alluded to in the Post article, do not know what to say even when we brush by them. “Thank you for your service” seems inadequate. A way to say something and maintain our distance. Even when I have the honor of caring for a serviceman in the ER, words often escape me.
How do you thank people who choose to keep you safe from enemies most of us will never know? Who willingly place themselves in harms way? Who burden their loved ones with the possibility they may be harmed or killed while they simply do their job? Who follow orders that some of us will argue are unfair or unjust because that is their duty and they are sworn to uphold it?
It is up to me, and you, to repay the immense debt we owe them, and to honor them with our lives and work. Thank you to our troops fighting, to our service men and women, and to those who have come home and work in our emergency rooms.