On the morning of Nov. 16, 2003, my cousin Tessa Flitton was unsure of how she should feel as she prepared to marry her future-husband Brandon McClellan. Her ambiguous feelings came because her father David Flitton could not attend the event because he was stationed in Iraq with the National Guard.
In the months leading up to the wedding, Tessa knew that it would be nearly impossible for her father to attend because of his commitment with the military in the Middle East and the lack of money available to him to purchase a roundtrip ticket from Iraq to the United States.
Unbeknownst to my cousin, a community wide effort, lead by my aunt Renee’s co-workers, helped to raise enough money to pay for a roundtrip flight to bring my uncle home and take his place to walk my cousin down the isle of matrimony.
When my uncle David stepped out of a nearby room, dressed in his military uniform, my cousin immediately saw him and began to cry with immeasurable happiness. The contagious flow of tears was immediately shared by everyone in attendance as the impossible was made real.
My uncle’s decision to join one of the fine branches of the United States military was one that many of my other family members have chosen before and alongside him.
I have an amazing military heritage that began with my grandparents and continues through to my uncles and even to my cousins.
The decision to become a soldier of any level or function is one that has crossed my mind a time or two but is always quickly dispelled as soon as I consider my mortality. Surely, the same thoughts have crossed the minds of everyone who has considered serving or is currently serving today.
When I think about what my life would be like if I were in the military, I automatically recognize that there is a level of sacrifice made by our service men and women that is simply unmatched in any other platform of life.
Whenever I see someone in uniform, I feel a sense of respect and admiration because of the selfless decision that he or she has made: To give so much and receive so little in return.
My uncle’s willingness to serve in the military, which nearly caused him to miss his own daughter’s wedding, is just one example of the many sacrifices that each one of our service members make the moment he or she enlists.
I am very proud that I have family members willing to sacrifice the most important moments of their lives to fight for the freedoms that I thoughtlessly enjoy every day.
Fortunately, my experiences with war are limited to the narratives told by my family members and seen in Hollywood films. I have never had to make a life or death decision, and I have never had to put my life at risk to protect the lives of others.
Surely there is something greater in our troops than I have in myself. I only hope that I can be a citizen that fights for our veterans and that I live in a way that would gratify their sacrifices.