The roads in my town are marked with green signs. There are exceptions, far too many, which are marked by blue street signs with yellow stars dotting the corners. These signify that a soldier, sailor, airman, or marine lived on that street before being killed in action.
I try not to look too closely, but I nearly always fail. As the daughter and sister of military men, those street signs are harbingers of every military family’s worst nightmare. There are more of those star-studded markers in the older parts of town, where the houses have stood there for more decades than I’ve been breathing. But there are plenty in the newer and more affluent areas of town, as well. Crossing the intersections, I will sometimes dare to peer down those haunted roads. I’m not sure what I’m expecting to see – an angel of death, perhaps, perching atop the house of each fallen serviceman and shrouding the property in shadows. Death like this, at that hands of war and for so noble a cause, is a tragedy so devastating that it must leave its fingerprints all over the victims. Some kind of marker or sign announcing for all creation to see:
This is where he lived.
This is where they mourn.
This is the house where a place setting will always be missing, where a folded flag rests on the mantle, where a pillow will always be untouched, where hearts will always ache.
I’ve yet to see that angel of death hovering over any of those homes, but the yellow stars on the street corners are reminder enough. Especially on days like this, designated we honor every one of those brave men and women who sacrificed everything for our nation. For all those enjoying barbeques and potlucks and boating this weekend, there are countless people living on streets marked by little yellow stars. There are widows who cried themselves to sleep in an empty king-size bed; there are orphans who never had another chance to greet Daddy at the front door; there are parents who had to bury their 18-year old son after his convey hit an IED. And there are well over one million Americans who will never again set foot on American soil, because they gave their lives defending their country.
It’s because of those men and women that we are able to stand here today and call ourselves Americans. Regardless of political differences, we can all agree that these people paid an unthinkable price, and for that they deserve to be honored and remembered.
And so today, and every day, we will remember their sacrifice, and we will be grateful.
We will remember their cause, and we will uphold it and never cease to defend it.
We will remember those they left behind, and we will grieve with them.
We will remember them, the fallen, and we will honor them. And we will do our damn best to make them proud.
To those who have been left behind, whose pillows are stained with tears of grief and whose hearts are haunted by the sound of the taps, thank you for what you have sacrificed and for what you have endured. Our country will forever be grateful for their sacrifice and for yours.
To those who have given their lives for our nation and our freedoms, I thank God for your courage and your sacrifice and for each of you. Greater love has no man than the kind for which you laid down your life.