Many of us walk around with blinders on. We don’t want to hear about war. We don’t want to see images of war. We don’t want to speak about war. And in doing so we neglect those who fight on our behalf. We take them for granted… just as we take it for granted that as Americans we do not see war on our soil. In fact, 9/11 was the first time many saw a glimpse of the terror that is too common-place on foreign soil. Although we may “never forget,” we are so shaken-up that we don’t want to think about it.
I have no idea what soldiers go through every day to make sure we can live safely in our little bubbles. But I don’t think this “ignorance is bliss” attitude is any reflection of how we feel about our soldiers. It’s just a type of avoidance for those of us who find it too difficult to bear. I am guilty of this type of avoidance, even though my cousin is serving in the Air force, did four tours in Kuwait and is currently on tour in Iraq.
When I was a little girl in the late 80’s, three of my cousins came to live with us from Japan. They lived on a base, travelling around every four years or so, and when my aunt and uncle split, I was introduced to my cousin “Cruz.” Cruz was a little older than me and became the older brother I never had. Cruz taught me how to ride a bike and he also taught me a little rebellion… (a kid-type of rebellion, like telling me I didn’t have to finish my food if I didn’t want to). He taught me the art of torturing my little sister and informed me that it wasn’t the stork that brought her to our life. Growing up, Cruz was quite a riot! He has been a very charming and kind person. Years passed and as we got older we lost touch. I found out Cruz was in the Air force when I was in law school. He called to tell me how proud he was of me. He learned Spanish while living in Texas and met the woman who he would eventually marry, and with whom he has a daughter.
Cruz is my cousin and I love him. Yet, I have never told him how much I appreciate what he is doing for us. I never asked him what it feels like to leave his wife, little girl, sisters and parents behind. I never asked him if he is ever afraid. When I see my cousin I stick to questions about the here and now. I cannot bear to think about what he has gone through or the what-ifs of what he is facing. I don’t know that I will ever have the courage to ask those questions. But it is time to take the blinders off and tell Cruz as well as those fighting on our behalf, “THANK YOU.” Without them, without people like my cousin, we wouldn’t feel safe at home. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!
© Emma Lopez 2009 all rights reserved