OPINION COLUMNS

Remember those who died to protect our home

By Shelley Madden | Published Sunday, May 29, 2011

The colors of the American flag ripple above as the winds toss and snap it, demanding my attention. I gaze at it in awe as it waves proudly against the cobalt sky. Mesmerizing colors melt and swirl together until they are one. They quickly reform with the next breeze.

My mind journeys back in time as I watch it. Red might be the blood lost in battle so we could have our freedom. Blue could be the blue-eyed soldier standing on the battlefield ready to give his life for ours. White may be the color of angels who ultimately guide our nation’s heroes to the next and final frontier. A frontier where there are no battles.

Highways and bi-ways moan and groan under the weight of thousands of motorists as they journey home in a never ending rhythm of gleaming steel and metal. Malls full of shoppers haggling over goods and rushing to sales. The farmer plowing a field in endless rows, praying for rain. The roar of the buses and trains and planes. Tiny windows glittering amber light within the towering skyscrapers overlooking it all. Our land. Our freedom. Our country.

Home after home I passed, as I commuted to my destination. Maybe someone in that endless row lost a father or brother or son or even a daughter. A life given so I could have mine. A century of lives given so we could have futures.

Thousands of soldiers who now lie forgotten in cemeteries washed away by time. Granite markers long gone, their names crumbled away by the winds and the sun and the rains. The once dotted hillside no longer carries the scars of their fight for ours. Wounds of battle long gone, only rolling fields of meadow grass dotted with the occasional wildflower, rippling in the silent winds. The same winds that whip the flag above me.

I gaze at the flag as people hustle by. They rush back and forth, reminding me of a million ants in an ant farm. One day a year set aside to remember them. One day. A day off work which has become a day for many to lie in the sun at the beach, or indulge in an enormous meal of barbecue and beers with family and friends. Laughing the day away, with nary a thought of what may well lie below their polished shoes.

Day after day they fought for us, year after year. Battle after battle was won, so we’d have a home to come home to, and food to sup. So we could have malls and trains and buses and planes. So we could indulge in the frivolities of existence.

The rip of a bullet meets flesh in a faraway country. A heart is broken stateside. A life forever changed. A child without a father, a father without a son.

I shed a tear to the beat of drums in the distance, as the majestic flag is lowered. It is carefully folded by two misty-eyed soldiers while dozens of watery eyes watch in hushed melancholy. They slowly march to the grieving widow and solemnly present it to her in unison. Her dark glasses hide her misery. Another life forever changed. Another life given so we could have ours.

The sun is setting on my meager home when I return. Golden hues gently light the familiar weathered wood and sagging sills. But today, somehow, it looks different. It looks better. It is a home that the soldiers built. Maybe not by hand, but definitely by spirit. A home within a city, within a state, within a great country. A country the eagle proudly soars over, an icon of remembrance of the sacrifices made for our land, for our homes, for our freedom, for our very existence.

I will make it a pact to remember the soldiers and thank them for what they have given us, every day.

Madden is an author who resides in New Fairview with her son, Dustin, along with her ponies, poultry, dogs and cats. She enjoys writing, fishing, shooting her pink guns and falling off her horse, Diamond. She dedicated this column to the soldiers, both past and present, who have fought for our freedom.

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