Do you remember where you were on September 11, 2001?
In some ways that day changed everything in the entire world, and watching it unfold on live TV was completely unforgettable.
Young boys from our own community joined the “war on terror” campaign and came back changed men… some for the worst. My oldest son was one of them. He joined the Marines in ‘03 and came back with his own tale to tell, which isn’t completely pretty.
He reported that one of the things the insurgents did in Iraq was create fear in the communities which they wanted to control. My son said the local people were very happy to see the Marines out patrolling. He kept asking us to send coloring books and gifts for the kids, and said it helped ease the (little ones) fears when they would storm a house in pursuit of the enemy. He definitely had a heart for the less fortunate, but was a vicious warrior when the time called for it.
One particular night his crew was out keeping an area clear while waiting for the bomb squad (EOD) to show up and disarm an improvised explosive device (IED). He said even though it was very late (1AM) and people were not normally out, it was a very tense operation. They were “sitting ducks” as he put it. The safest thing they could do was to keep moving, but they had to wait for the EOD. All of a sudden through their night vision goggles, they saw 5 people walking towards them from a considerable distance. The people were carrying things that could have been weapons, so his crew asked him if they could “engage them” (start shooting). My son said “No, not until we can identify clearly what their intentions are.” He said that was the scariest position he was ever in. Being in a firefight with the enemy had a certain level of adrenaline, but he did not want to lose any of his crew by being “too safe.” He also would have been equally troubled if they killed innocent people.
Anyway, back to the drama… He said the people kept moving towards them (the locals knew not to do this) and they were definitely carrying things in their hands, which led him to believe they were insurgents sneaking up on them. The darkness made it impossible to clearly identify what the items were. As they came closer, his crew became increasingly concerned for their own safety.
With their fully automatic weapons locked and loaded… and their night vision scopes trained on the people for an instant kill, they asked him repeatedly for permission to engage them. He held off to the last second then determined they were not hostile. They happened to be a local family that saw the Marines out in the dark and wanted to bring them food. They cooked a meal and packed it up to carry to the soldiers, as a way of saying thank you. My son said the intense pressure to make the right choice was “mind numbing.”
Everything in life has risks and rewards, but how far will you go for freedom? Also, what is freedom anyway?
If you give up your personal freedom to liberate someone else, where does your independence begin and end? How does one really make a decision to “die for their country?”
I’m fascinated by the courage of people (military and civilian) that can put themselves in harm’s way for people they do not know. It’s one thing to protect your family from an intruder in your home (not a problem for me), but to fly half way around the world and engage an enemy just boggles my mind. I’m not making a statement in support for or against the war. I was just able to see (and experience) first hand the price my son paid to go. Personally, I do wonder if it was worth it.
He lost three of his friends (crew) when his vehicle hit a double stacked anti tank mine and was blown to bits. He happened to not be in the vehicle that night, because he offered his seat to another Marine that was sick and scheduled to go out on a foot patrol. He took the foot patrol campaign so his friend could get (much needed) rest. Even though it was much more dangerous to go “kicking in doors” than to ride in a vehicle, that decision ended up saving his life… but brought torment to his soul…
The anger and drinking when he returned (from Iraq) seemed to swell as the trauma was exiting him… it was so tough to watch him go through the hardships and took many years to get better. Yes, he definitely paid a price for the freedom of others.
Interestingly some people take their freedom for granted or may have lived under oppression for so long they can’t really understand what it is… Or how to live it. But it does still exist.
I’m captivated by the invisible attributes of life… If you ask any person to show you a part of their body like their eyes or nose, they would be able to point to them. What if you asked to see their soul? What would it look like and how would they show you?
My bride and I saw a quote from CS Lewis the other day that read “You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.” Think about that for a bit… Why do they refer to us on airplanes and ships as “souls on board?”
Could a person be locked up in prison for life and experience freedom? And conversely, are there people walking around today with massive amounts of money and intelligence that are not free?
Even though September 11, 2001 opened doors and dialog regarding freedom… There are people all around, I would consider “not free.” Call me crazy, and I may be dumber than a box of chocolates, but I received my freedom during my battle with cancer this last year. The horrific suffering produced a change within me that allows a free life like never before. People have often heard me say “I wouldn’t wish what I went through on my worst enemy, but I’m glad I went through it.” I live every moment to the fullest.” Do you live to your fullest, and are you really free? If not, what is stopping you?
The military, police, firemen and all the other agencies that put themselves in harm’s way to protect us are great, but freedom is really an inside job….
“Liberty is the right to choose, freedom is the result of that choice”