Remember those paper American flags that came in local newspapers in the weeks and months following September 11, 2001? They could be seen on people’s front doors and behind the counters of the local coffee shops. They served as reminders of our true love for country and most deserved recognition of those men and women fighting to keep it free.
As heart felt as those flags were, the paper they were printed on soon faded and for many, including me, the true understanding of sacrifice made by those men and women off at war.
I’ve now been living and working in Samoa for my Peace Corps service for nearly six months. During that time, I have been able to gain a deeper appreciation for those men and women who put themselves in harms way to protect our country.
Of course, I supported our troops before I left for the Peace Corps. However, being here away from family, in another country, with another language, culture, climate and life, has made that respect I’ve always had for them gain this new pulse. When I’m having one of those bad days or weeks, and feel discouraged, I try to remember that I’m not being shot at and having to wear bullit proof vests, glasses, and walk around in the dark with night vision goggles. I’m living in a country so peaceful that it doesn’t even have its own army. I may live in a remote village with limited phone and internet access in the country, but I have them and I can always go into town to watch a movie at the theater and grab a burger and fries.
I now know the gut-wrenching feeling of having to say goodbye to family for two years and then living my most challenging days ever, without them here at my side. But the one thing I can’t wrap my head around is the sacrifice that those men and women with children make when they leave for war. The bravery of their mission begins the moment they hug and kiss their three year old son or daughter goodbye, with the prayers that they’ll be reunited.
Not everyone is meant to join a service organization such as the Peace Corps or a domestic program such as Teach For America, and not all of us are called to serve our country in uniform to keep it safe. Nonetheless, I’ve realized that whatever sacrifices you may have to make in your life, whatever hardships you may face, you can stop and try to relate to those men and women who are brave enough to sacrifice their own lives for ours.