As a child, I remembered a biblical passage – when someone died, the Lord waited to greet him or her into the Kingdom of Heaven. If the person had lived a worthwhile, meaningful life, the Lord would say, “Welcome home my good and faithful servant.”
On Saturday, we attended a Yellow Ribbon ceremony in Laramie, WY honoring ETT.2 National Guard Unit which had returned home after serving in Afghanistan from August 2008 until May 2009.
Of the fifteen individuals who deployed, only fourteen returned to receive their medals and celebrate with families and friends. One had paid the supreme sacrifice. Each member of the unit was called by name to accept the various medals from Governor Frudenthal and the National Guard’s top commanders. They listened to a special commendation read in their honor citing specific accomplishments while serving in Operation Enduring Freedom.
The speakers informed the gathering that in World War II, 12% of the population served in some capacity in the armed forces. Today, with an all volunteer military, only one third of one percent is serving. To make this clearer, the speaker noted, one would have to knock on doors of over 300 homes to finally get to one where someone is serving in the military. No wonder so many American’s have so little understanding of the sacrifice so few are giving to keep America and its citizens safe.
Presenters also noted some of the military’s achievements over the last many years while in Afghanistan:
- Helping create a healthier infrastructure such as hospitals, water filtering plants, schools, etc.
- Today, over six million children are now in school; two million are girls (girls have been forbidden by the Taliban to get an education)
- Over 6ooo kilometers of new roads have been constructed
- Healthcare is up and infant mortality is down
We were reminded how our troops are laying the groundwork for democracy in a country where running water is a rarity. Where accomplishing such a noble mission comes with a high price, both financial and human; a mission that proved again how a small group of focused, committed individuals can make a huge difference to enhance the lives of strangers in foreign lands.
It seemed to me, while listening to the speeches and special award presentations that it all could be summed up in one biblical sentence:
“Welcome home, my good and faithful soldier; your life has been meaningful and well spent.”
Let us hope we never forget the sacrifice and contributions our military men and women have made and are continuing to make to keep America free. For these fourteen families and communities, the yellow ribbons can now be untied, at least for now. And for one family, the yellow ribbon will forever be replaced with an empty chair at a table marking the high cost of service to our country.