Monday, May 28, 2012

A Memorial Day Thank You to Don McKenzie and the Rest

Yesterday, a friend and I walked about a half-mile from my house to a Buffalo Wild Wings and had drinks, played video games and watched golf/baseball/fights and the end of the Indy 500.

Along the way, no one asked us for our papers, threatened us because we were from a different tribe or religious sect or were a different color, and we didn’t have to carry guns with us.

Here’s why:

Don McKenzie was 22 when he was killed in Vietnam on December 10, 1968.

Don lived at the end of the street I grew up on. He was 6 years older than me so when I was in that impressionable 10-12 year-old time he was one of my high school heroes. He was the first person close to my age whom I remember losing to the war in Vietnam.

For 230+ years all sorts of Americans, men and women, young and old, rich and poor, white/black/Native/Hispanic/Asian and other nationalities, have died to make sure that you and I didn’t have to carry “papers” or guns wherever we go in America. They are the reason we can argue about silliness like whether or not we should censor what’s on television/internet/books, what people wear or whether consenting adults who love each other and happen to be of the same sex can get married.

In the searing light of day and in the dark of night, in mud/sandstorms/typhoons and hurricanes/snow, in the scariest places on earth Americans have heroically died some of the most horrible deaths imaginable so that we can worship wherever we like and then go to a grocery store and choose among 27 types of barbecue sauce.

I’m all for having that feeling of superiority that being an American seems to give us…the feeling that the red, white and blue makes us better…I am unashamedly proud of the feeling of entitlement that gives me.

Now, if you want to feel guilty, let your imagination slide over to what it felt like to be a young guy from a small town in North Carolina, lying in tall grass in a country on the other side of the world and dying of small arms fire. And, he did it so you and I could safely walk out to the driveway each morning without feeling threatened and pick up a newspaper in which are written stories that, in some countries in the world, would get the reporters hung.

Thank you, Don.

Thank you all.

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