I keep seeing posts like this all over twitter:
I think I am qualified to give an answer (I’ll explain in a bit). If you want to skip all that and just know what my answer is…well, it’s YES. Yes, that is exactly why they gave their lives.
Here comes an origin story. Just so you know.
I joined the US Navy in August of 1989, and spent two years in training. After those two years, I was transferred to the USS Arkansas. We called it the Arkatraz. Anyway, I was transferred to that ship in 1991, shortly after the beginning of hostilities known as Desert Shield and Desert Storm. My ship was not in theater during the initial action, as they were ferrying folks to safety after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines. I arrived on board in August of 1991, shortly after the Arkatraz entered the Persian Gulf and began escorting vessels from Kuwait through mine-infested waters towards open sea.
That’s the Navy bit. Let me give you some personal history of 1991 for me.
On February 9th, 1991, I married the love of my life, Teresa. I didn’t know about the whole “love of my life” thing at the time, but it has certainly born out to be so. She’s pretty cool. We were married after an incredibly short time of dating and engagement (11 months total, IIANM). I was attending my C school training at Mare Island, CA (back when it was a Navy base), and was scheduled to finish that in July.
On July 1st, after years of various treatments and much family stress, my father died. I’m not going to get into it too much here. Maybe another time…but it was a mere 4.5 months after I was married.
In August, I caught a ride on a plane (8 hours), then another plane (12 hours), then another plane (6 hours), and then a helicopter (7 hours) to take me to my ship, the USS Arkansas.
So, there I am…married ~ six months, one month removed from the loss of my dad, on a floating tin can in the middle of the ocean surrounded by people I didn’t know and tasked with operating in a war-time environment.
Not my most stable mental period in my life.
So…where did my mind go? As with all people, I believe, I would mentally retreat into times of safety, warmth, and joy, when I could “unfocus” from the loss, stress, and pain. I would remember Sunday afternoon potlucks at the LaRue Co. Church of Christ. Or playing ping-pong and Nintendo with Chad, Brandon, and my math teacher, Mr. Shaw. I would recall my first date with Teresa. Or when we ordered room service pizza and watched Star Trek TNG at the Claremont Hotel in Oakland on our wedding night.
And I would remember my new father-in-law grilling tri-tip in his backyard on Sunday afternoons.
And I can GUARANTEE that those soldiers, sailors, marines, and whatever-air-force-people-are-called that were engaged in active hostile action, hostile action that took their lives, were thinking about the same kinds of things.
So, eat your charred meat. Drink a frosty beverage, and sit on the couch and relax. Take a moment, just a moment, and say a small prayer of thanks to those women and men that died to protect your ability to do so. They wouldn’t have it any other way.