Moving was an adventure. Military life was an adventure. It wasn't until I got older that I saw the other side of the military. The side that is less parade grounds and air shows and Star Spangled Banners and more difficulty and separation and loss. Lots of loss. I remember realizing that moving and leaving friends made people sad, and wondering why I didn't feel that sadness. I remember when my dad's best friend was killed in action overseas, and seeing dad's sorrow and the sorrow of a widow left behind with a tiny son to raise alone. And then, years later, seeing the man's name on the Air Force Academy Chapel wall, and feeling the weight of every other name there, too. I realized why my great-grandfather didn't talk about serving in WWII and that the statement about war written on the young soldier's helmet in the famous Vietnam war photo is true, and no one wants to re-live war. I realized that dads and moms could be ordered to far off places without their loved ones, serving for 6 or 8 or 12 months, and I lived the reality of that horrible separation, three times. I realized why the National Anthem makes women and even old, stern and stoic men cry, because it makes me cry now, too. Anything remotely patriotic makes me tear up, and I apologize if you happen to be standing beside me when it happens.
Most of all, I realized that they are right, freedom really isn't free. All freedom has a terrible price, and the price is life. The lives of those who live the military life, and their spouses and children and loved ones, and the lives of those who were called to make the ultimate sacrifice. And it's the same with freedom in Jesus Christ. We are free because he paid the price for us. He gave his life as a ransom for many and was the most ultimate sacrifice. But even in the face of this truth about freedom, I can't say that I despise the life I've lived and continue to live.
Instead, I'm deeply grateful for it -- for being part of something bigger than myself, for the lessons I've learned, for the pride in my country and my father, a man who lives with integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all he does. For the men and women who gave and give their lives, dying to themselves on a daily basis. But most importantly, I'm thankful for a Savior who gave His life. Because it is His sacrifice that makes this fleeting life worth living and gives me a hope of a better life to come. And for that, I am most thankful.