Showing love for our soldiers

Posted Nov. 24, 2009, at 6 p.m.

Well, that day is upon us again; inventory day. Tomorrow we’ll look into our vault of this year’s memories and consider those things for which we are truly thankful. I get to spend tomorrow with my kids; I’m enormously appreciative.

What person or persons make you feel fortunate? Why do you suppose they have that effect over you? In preparation for tomorrow when you’ll sit around the turkey expressing your gratitude, think about one of those people right now.

What is the overriding feeling you have when you think of them? In my case it’s love. I love my kids and whether I was with them or not tomorrow, I’d be grateful for them. My appreciation is magnified exponentially by the fact that I get to see them.

Who do you love that much? Your wife? Your dad? Your brother? What do you think would happen if we all picked the person someone else loves and loved them too? You know, we’d love someone else’s favorite people even though they are total strangers. I’d love your daughter, you’d love my sister, my sister would love your mom, and so forth. We don’t know each other but I could see it happening. I’d love your daughter just because you do; I’d take your word for it that she is lovable, think about how I feel about my kids and love her as close to that as I can.

Sounds all hippy and new age, I know. Being grateful for someone else’s loved one — caring nothing about the details of their personality and placing no conditions on the terms of our affections — we actually profess to do it all the time. I have an example of folks most of us will voice gratitude for tomorrow, even though we don’t know the vast majority of them. You know who I mean. I mean our soldiers.

But wait a minute, do you love our soldiers because they are someone else’s loved one or do you love them because you just love yourself?

Maybe you love our soldiers because you don’t want bad guys to mess with you and you love the men and women who are willing to get in the way of the people you consider bad. If deep down inside even a little bit of you says — “Yeah, I’m going to give thanks for our soldiers tomorrow because of what they are willing to do for me” — then that explains a lot. That explains why we’re still in Iraq and it explains why we’re watching the tragedy at Fort Hood like there’s something different between that senseless killing and what happened in 2007 at Virginia Tech.

You have 24 hours to change why you love those soldiers for this Thanksgiving holiday. You have 24 hours to love them because they are somebody’s mom or dad, daughter or son, husband or wife, brother or sister. When you see them as people who are cared about the way you care for your loved ones you’ll stop putting them in harm’s way for no justifiable reason.

When you pass the candied yams tomorrow to a person that you can’t imagine losing then you’ll know deep down inside why you’re grateful this year. You’ll hear that inner sigh of relief that no senseless killer at Fort Hood or Virginia Tech or in Baghdad took them from you this year or last year or the year before that. And if you are one of those people who has lost a loved one to senseless brutality, then you know the burden of losing that life is something you wouldn’t share, even with someone you don’t know.

Now take that selfless love one step further and try loving the Iraqi people. The Iraqi people are dying in numbers that dwarf our losses. If we loved our own soldiers as we love our own kin, if we loved fellow wanderers on the planet — regardless of their dissimilarities to ourselves — we would stop the war.

Write to Congress and the president. They promised change. Loving each other is the change we need. Remember, we send soldiers to war because we love ourselves. They go to war because they love us more.

Pat LaMarche of Yarmouth is the author of “Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States.” She may be reached at PatLaMarche@hotmail.com.

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