(June 30, 2016) - Monday we Americans will celebrate Independence Day. For most of us it is another summertime opportunity to enjoy the warm sun, grill food with the family, and generally revel in the joy of it all. Part of the celebration is an early evening fireworks display. You know it – the whistle of the mortar shell climbing skyward, trailing sparks, the blossom of colors, and the big boom. We love it, especially the boom. It triggers a community expression of “Ooohhhhhh” or “Aaahhhhhh !!!” Close your eyes, even now you can see it in your mind.
That first skyward rocket, and the boom, takes you back to your first memories of summer when you were a kid. Remember? You were on Dad’s shoulders. The family had been outside all day long. The day might have started with a ride in the car from the house out to the beach. The cool water, warm breeze, and the beach sand all mixed together to give you a sunburn, but you won’t mind that until tomorrow. Right now you are safe with the family and enjoying those blossoms of light and energy, and the boom. The boom was usually followed by a short burst of crackling as the errant embers of powder fell into the darkness.
Everybody enjoys it. Well, not everybody. There are a few in the crowd that really enjoyed the entire day, right up to the moment of that first boom. For them the triggered reaction wasn’t an expressive release of joy and appreciation. No, some of the military veterans in the crowd begin to feel nervous and uncomfortable. Their memories of the burst of light, the big boom, and the crackling noise no longer bring joy.
These combat veterans have a difficult time forgetting their up close and personal experience with the light, the boom and the crackle. Their memories involve more guttural screams. And their wounds are much worse than an afternoon’s sunburn. They are still on the battlefield. They continue to carry our flag, as patriots always will.
This weekend, as that first shell rises to meet the anticipation of all Americans, remember those that can no longer enjoy the light, the boom, the crackle. Recognize that they served because WE asked them to answer the call. We have made the call for 240 years. The day may come in which the call is not heard by the kids on Daddy’s shoulder. That will be our fault. Because we no longer make much of an effort to tell those kids what the fireworks represent – the light, the boom, the crackle. . . and the fallen.