This morning I volunteered ten minutes of my time to read some of the many names of fallen soldiers from the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It was part of a project put forth by the UW-SP Veteran Club, and it provided a stark reminder about how these individuals gave their time and life in the cause of freedom. It wasn't until I stepped behind the podium that I began to think of how they impacted others, for they sacrificed everything for us. In our world this group of fallen soldiers would no longer experience love and family, they would never again see the faces of friends and community, the smiles of their loved ones, and the joys of father/motherhood, and everything else we often take for granted.
There was no crowd of students listening to what I said, but rather most individuals kept to their paths of going to or from the DUC. There were one or two people who paused to offer their respect, perhaps a prayer or moment of meditation. The roll of names was steady and consistent, no elevated pitch when emphasizing Private First Class, Sargent or Special Forces. In God's eyes they were His children fallen in battle, and I know He was there with open arms when their lives passed from our world to His.
As I read each name, I saw a face and imagined where they might now be had there been no war. There were moments when I choked back emotion, trying to maintain my poise and respect. Both my father and father-in-law were Veterans of WWII and the Korean conflict respectively, and I wondered how life would have changed not only for myself and my wife, but also my son had they not survived those wars. It put their sacrifice into a whole new perspective. Today was a sobering experience and one which I will long look back on. It defines who we are as a country, community, family and most of all, individuals who care to make a difference in the world. To all the veterans, be they living or deceased, I am most grateful for your service to our country. You are not...and will never be forgotten!