Feature photo by Adam Skoczylas for The U.S. Army

There are way too many issues in society today. The news is full of depressing updates, the economy sucks, the weekend is too short, bills too high, paycheck too small, goodness, I can probably go on for a while finding little things that make life seem way too monotonous. Monotonous…..hmmm, I bet that is one word our soldiers rarely ever used, either while active, on leave, retired or disabled. They are always on duty, in their hearts, and for some, in their minds. They have sacrificed their lives, passions, and dreams, and those of their family and friends are sometimes never the same. You send away your loved ones with kisses and farewells and blessings, knowing that they will be fighting for a “greater good,” obviously one that we regular non-military civilians most likely cannot grasp the concept of. How could we? We are the players on the sidelines shouting how to make the game-winning shot, and they are the players actually busting their butts in the game. Some proudly claim their love of country, yet treat her like she is an old worn-out sweater or rusted piece of metal on the front lawn. It’s never going to be the right time to start appreciating the country we live in. America has let us down in so many ways–or has she?

America is our country. This is our place of residence, our home. Politics aside, I’m talking straight patriotism. According to Webster’s Dictionary, the definition of patriotism is “love for one’s country, to support, serve, and defend, to be inspired by, to change for the better and to care deeply for its citizens.” I challenge you to be patriotic this Memorial Day. I don’t want to hear why you “can’t” be–there is no excuse. So you don’t like the laws; okay, work to change them. You don’t like your neighbor, so move to a better neighborhood. You don’t like paying taxes and feeling like you get nothing in return; just think of the countries without any democracy at all. We are living in the land of opportunity, people; if you haven’t found an opportunity, it’s because you’re not looking hard enough for one. Please don’t dare stand and flap your jaws about how brutal America has been to you. You have a choice there also, my friend–pack your things and leave.

We, the people living on this land, have a lot to be grateful for. Stop and count your blessings, then thank a Veteran. I bet they can give you a new perspective on what is and isn’t patriotic and what represents love of country. What’s that? You don’t know any veteran? Sure you do. Look around. There are roughly 24 million veterans living among us. Here, I will even break it down for you: almost 2 million are female, that means she may have left her husband or children to serve her country. A little over 5 million are Hispanic, African-American, Asian, and other minority races. I’m guessing they had a dream or vision of making a “change for the better.” Over 9 million are over 65, and just under 2 million haven’t hit their mid-thirties yet. Almost 6 million are disabled, nearly 4 million of that number of veterans have direct service-related disabilities. These are the men and women who are among us. They are the survivors. As a nation, we celebrate Memorial Day to honor their fallen comrades, friends, brothers and sisters. You might not agree with what is going on in America today, but is it fair to disrespect the memories of those that served and gave their lives so we could have a place to call home?

Change begins within. If you are willing to change your perception of what is wrong with the country around you, maybe you can begin to find a way to appreciate all the hope we have been given. We were granted the privileges of disagreeing with our government and lawmakers and then taking our fights all the way up to the Supreme Court to make an absolute difference in what we feel are injustices. We were granted these and many more privileges by the veterans of America. You may say, it’s a “choice” to not fly an American flag, and I agree. However, by not honoring the traditions of the past, we cannot teach the younger generations to respect them either or to even care about the future. Is that really the message we want to send?

We have come a long way. We are not perfect. America is not perfect, but we still have many reasons to be proud. We are a country that has heroes that fought for us and this country, a country they believed had something worth fighting for. I don’t agree with everything going on today, but I know that because of the work put in by others, I can still hope for a better tomorrow. I can still believe that eventually, justice will prevail. I can still find inspiration whenever I look up at the American flag; I know I have something to be proud of–our military. Silent thank yous go a long way. The fallen heroes may be gone, but the broken hearts of those they left behind are still here. By flying the stars and stripes, you pay tribute and show you appreciate the ultimate sacrifice that was paid for whatever freedom you choose to enjoy today. It is the flag of this country. Obviously, you’re here because you want to be. Now how about showing some respect. It’s the least you can do. The men and women of our military, America’s military, deserve that much.

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