I know most people feel this way, and nations around the world feel it for their own brave forces who serve and protect. It is nothing new. I am not unique in this. I am even far-removed, having only one military man in the family: my papa, who served on the USS Mt. Katmai in the Korean War with the Navy.
I even grapple ideologically with the idea of nation-states and border-lines and the protection or separation therein, and thus the idea of a military force run by a government, tied to a patch of land on which I just happened to have been born.
While exploring a certain career path in the last year, I expressed these frustrations to a young man working for a branch of the government in Foreign Service. He responded,
“You're exactly right, however, the few sometimes have to sacrifice certain comforts for the masses. I'd love to live in Portland, work at a nice little ski shop or cafe, take the kids to Forest Park and spend summers singing Garth Brooks classics at campfire, but somehow I found myself speaking Arabic with five years of experience as a Marine Sergeant. …I have an amazing family and network of Oregon friends, however, like I said above, in order for them to continue living a comfortable bike-friendly life on 23rd and Burn', some of us have to go abroad and make sure their best interests are maintained”.
I think that he so eloquently articulated the reason people serve their country- we have a way of life we want to continue enjoying, and other nation states are going to do the same, and sometimes, that causes conflict that merits defense.
So despite my interest in, and deep gratitude for, our nation’s military history and presence, I haven’t done a whole lot of research or been very involved in further understanding it or supporting it. I had some great high school classes and college courses that really engaged me, and I do my best to express my thanks to servicemen & women when I meet them in my daily life, but I think largely I avoid learning too much lest it really disturb me or call me to an uncomfortable level of action.
I have admittedly never seen the film Saving Private Ryan (1996) from beginning to end, and had not seen the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers (2001).
Until this week.
On Sunday, I wasn’t feeling too well, and decided to let myself have an afternoon on the sofa watching whatever I could find, for as many hours as I could. After making it halfway through a Lifetime Movie (“The Pregnancy Pact”…don’t bother) I came across the HBO On Demand selections for this month and there was Band of Brothers.
My dad has loved this show since before he even got to see it. We bought him the DVD set for Christmas one year, and he has watched it multiple times since then, though carefully spaced through the years so he forgets just enough of the details in between viewings to really enjoy it again. He is an avid reader, and has read the Stephen Ambrose book on which the series is based. This makes him an invaluable asset to have around when watching.
So as soon as the swell of music started in the credits and I prepared myself for the emotional ride that was to ensue, Dad slipped into the room and situated himself in the leather recliner to watch with me.
It is now Friday, and we have made it through six of the ten hour-long episodes, last night getting in two and staying up til 12:45 or so. To hell with waking up for work on time: we’ve got more important things to worry about.
Last night as I was going to bed, again moved and shaken by the drama of Easy Company, of the 101st Airborne Division, that had played out before us, Dad said to me, “You know, I think this is going to rank as one of my favorite things I’ve ever gotten to share with my daughter.”
If you’d like to borrow him, he is an excellent provider of footnotes and explanations, or you can come to my house to watch The Pacific, HBO’s follow-up to Band of Brothers that tracks what was going on in the other theater- arguably an entirely different kind of war. It starts March 14th, and I am sure will be equally as informative, inspiring, and humbling.