by Robert Arvay
If you were a school teacher, how would you respond to this child? The teacher asks the children, “What do you have to be grateful for?” One of the little one asks, in all innocence, “Grateful to whom?”
There are countless people to whom we can be grateful. Whenever I see an elderly man with one of those “WW2 Veteran” hats, I make it a point to say to him, “thank you for my freedom.” It’s not always possible to do so, and sometimes it is very awkward. In the beginning, I was embarrassed, but I got over it and now it’s a habit. If you wish to join me in personally thanking such men to their face, then hurry. They’re dying at an estimated 1,000 per day. Soon they will be gone, but their legacy will live on.
If the Germans and Japanese won World War II, our condition today would be one of unimaginable horror. During the ‘Great War,’ literally millions died at their hands; not only men in combat, but innocent civilians, including children, by such senseless brutalities that we hardly dare describe them. The perpetrators of such atrocities were not only unrepentant, they seemed incapable of understanding that what they had done was wrong. In victory, they would have perpetuated their evil on an even greater scale, to this very day.
Given that you and I were saved from, indeed, a fate worse than death, it is a small thing to say “Thank you” to our veterans.
In some cases, when I have given thanks to these men, I received blank stares from people in the immediate area. They look upon me as if I was a freak. They seem to wonder, albeit with disinterest, “What is there to be grateful for?” To such people, the realities of war are packaged into a ninety minute experience in an air-conditioned theater. They cannot imagine living for weeks on end in sub-zero temperatures, outdoors, seeing their best friends wounded, disfigured, and dying. They have no concept of that same time frame in a hot, sweaty jungle, with leeches and insects biting them, and snipers killing their best friends.
Even worse, those who are ungrateful are also clueless about the value of their freedom. They take it for granted. Can such people be depended on to defend it?
We can be thankful that many of our fellow citizens remain willing to make the sacrifices that keep us all free. Although I am a veteran myself, never having been shot at, I extend my gratitude to youngsters who are one-third my age who serve in uniform, men and women alike.
Of course, I’m note underestimating the contributions of those who haven’t served in the military. Everyone has a role to play. However, those on the front line will always have a special place in my heart.
To the young child who asks about gratitude, I would try to find a way to answer his innocent question. Perhaps, the best way to say it might be like this, however politically-incorrect it might be: “I thank God, I thank the Creator, for the courage and sacrifice of those who defend our freedom.”