In just a few days, MarshFox will celebrate the one-year anniversary of his retirement from service to the empire. I won’t lie. While I am, and forever will be, proud beyond description of his part in defending our shores, and the shores of other countries fighting for a breath of that sweet air of freedom, I have to say I am also glad beyond description that that leg of our journey to retaining that freedom is over. We now work for that retention in other ways, for example through exercising our rights as prescribed through the Bill by researching and knowing the issues, voting our conscience, attending a religious service of our choosing, speaking out against injustices, and so many others. All that being said, I’d be remiss in not saying that my view of and scope of freedom was contained mostly within the confines of living the military life for thirty years. I was aware of the world outside the walls of the bases we resided on for so many tours, and I knew that what MarshFox did every day helped anyone living outside those walls be able to walk down the sidewalk safely on any given day, aided in keeping their freedoms intact. The stink of it was, so often MarshFox and I did not enjoy the same basic privileges as those he was defending the freedoms of. We weren’t really allowed to voice our opinion on so many fronts because being a puppet to the hand-master of the empire means you are basically politically neutered.
Yes, you vote, but you won’t find election signs in any yard on any base because the machine functions as one entity. Cohesion and non-conflict are key to the mission. You keep your opinions to yourself and private, vote your conscience and move on. In other words, the military environment, the play-place of all those fighting for the freedoms of the many, is the most PC self-contained area on earth to the point of opinion sterilization. When signing the dotted line to defend freedom, you in effect give away much of your own. While Old #2 is regularly practiced outside the confines of the same walls we lived behind, we weren’t allowed to practice it ourselves. There is no concealed carry privilege on base. You can carry up to the point of the gate, then you must disarm and store your weapon in a particular way straight to your quarters. Think about that. A privilege any American citizen can practice, carrying a weapon concealed for self-protection, the very people who fight to retain that privilege for the many cannot practice. If you can’t trust your highly trained military with weapons, who can you trust?
Since leaving the rank and file, the lens through which we viewed the world and the privileges MarshFox fought so hard to protect has shifted somewhat. What we knew to be the freedoms just outside the fence are now realities to us in a way they never were before. I don’t have to bite my tongue in mixed company anymore. If I have an opinion, I can call it like I see it and not have to worry about backlash from “command” coming down on MarshFox as soon as he sets foot in the office on Monday morning. I don’t have to walk on eggshells around my neighbor who might hold a different view of something than I, but we aren’t allowed to discuss because it’d disrupt the cohesiveness needed to keep the troops on mission. We are no longer beholden to supporting the mission, but not discussing or debating what the mission means to us.
All seems kind of backward, doesn’t it? And no one talks about it. It’s one of the ugly truths the general public either doesn’t realize exists, or they don’t discuss, or they just outright choose to ignore. Sort of like the treatment of our veterans post-service. No one really wants to discuss that either and certainly no one has a meaningful solution that I’ve seen presented thus far.
It’s just recently, since integrating back into the general population, that I’ve begun to be able to see what the fruit was of MarshFox’s labors. Before, my view of what that might look like was contained to a fairly narrow field. Now, the lens has widened and the truths I knew existed have become much clearer and closer to home. A couple of instances of these truths and perceptions have come just within a few days of this post and really struck a chord.
Currently, we attend Mass at a small local parish tucked away here in these mountains where the priest happens to be Vietnamese, a refugee of the war at that. He sees our world through a very different lens than most of America. Where most might take all our freedoms for granted, even disregard them completely at times, he appreciates with fervor what all those freedoms actually mean for him and the rest of the citizens of this nation. His story is one that brings me to my knees time and again, in awe as well as thanksgiving that I don’t share in his story, because quite frankly I’m not sure I’m that strong to have carried that burden. After a first failed attempt at escaping the communistic state he was unfortunate to live in, he was imprisoned in a work camp for several years. Upon his release, his second attempt at escape and retaining refugee status was successful. The horrors he experienced between those attempts that he can attest to at the hands of a nation not free have the ability to curl your toes and turn your stomach. He truly knows what it is to suffer and reach for something greater. He knows sacrifice. He also recognizes true freedom and advocates for the retention of it like no one I’ve ever encountered. This past Sunday, emotion welled up from deep within the man as he explained from his view through the lens how lucky we really are in this country to have the privileges we do, and how stupidly we take them for granted and are so unappreciative of them, and how close we are to losing them if we aren’t careful. He also took the time to thank all veterans, but most especially those who served in Vietnam, fighting for a country lost to the demands of a communistic dictator so that they might someday enjoy the freedom we have so readily at our fingertips.
Hearing his adamant appreciation made me take pause and think back on all the times I was so angry, frustrated, hurting, and scared for my husband’s life as he waded through the remnants of someone else’s shit storm in some other country. While I was proud of him, I also harbored a plethora of other emotions concerning his deployments. Why wasn’t he home? Why wasn’t he here taking care of our house? Why was he trying to help someone else somewhere else who didn’t appreciate it anyway, who didn’t truly want our help? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?
I knew the truth then, but had a hard time acknowledging some facts for my own selfishness and fear. There are people in the war zones of the world our men and women are sent to who do appreciate our sacrifices so that they might taste the sweetness of uncensored news feeds and the privilege of the voting booth. It’s hard to see that appreciation from behind a wall. It’s hard to feel that appreciation until you hear it from someone’s lips who has experienced the horrors of being unfree, until you see it in their eyes and it winds its way around your heart and squeezes.
Some 243 years ago, the very freedoms we now hold dear and which we now try to spread around the globe didn’t even exist. For not a few brave souls pushing for that sweet taste of true freedom, we might be living in conditions as bad or worse than what our priest describes to us on a regular basis so that we might not forget what we have and so often take for granted. I was reminded of that a few days ago when my soul sister made the trek to Washington D.C. for the DAR Continental Congress. The Daughters fight for the retention of history every day through education, research, and service to our communities. Never is this more evident than when a few thousand of us gather. This year, along with celebrating our nations birth, she was afforded the chance to stop at Antietam. While this isn’t a battlefield from our shared Revolutionary roots, it is common ground for us where the fight was carried to continue building upon the freedoms the forefathers envisioned during the awakening of our nation. She walked the road her ancestors walked, and felt the connection to the freedom fighters of the day that she shares blood with. It’s a profound, heart-clenching, gut-twisting feeling to take the same steps your predecessor took on all our behalf knowing that at the end of that long road, death awaited. A death they freely accepted for the good of all. As the retainers of, and fighters for the truth of, history, we see what it means to be free through a slightly different lens. We see and experience the sacrifices of the few for the many via handwritten letters, diary entries, and other historical documents from the battlefields, first-hand accounts of the horrors of what it takes to retain freedom. We hear our ancestors crying out for the waters of privilege to quench the arid airs of oppression. The tug and pull of common roots reaching out from beyond to touch our souls is strong.
We each have a lens through which we view our nation and all the freedoms it offers. Some are narrow. Some are wide. All tell a story. This Independence Day, as you’re enjoying the freedom won over and over again by the blood of patriots, switch lenses with someone. Take a look from their view and see if there is anything you’ve missed, something you’ve neglected to acknowledge, something you’ve never felt before. Hear the echoes of the voices crying out for one taste of what we all at one time or other take for granted, and listen carefully to their stories.
Friends, I bid each of you a safe and enjoyable Independence Day. Celebrate today what we might not have tomorrow if we don’t safeguard it with our very lives.