Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Honoring Our Nation's Heroes

Last year I started a Veteran's Day tradition with the kids that I hope I will honor long past my years of teaching them. We sought out two veterans among the hundreds living right in our community, wrote them simple cards and baked them simple treats, and then went to their homes, looked them in the eye, and said thank you. Two words. Not much. Yet it seemed to mean so much to them, and as a mother trying to teach her children to understand the cost of our freedom, I know how much it meant to me. I decided we would seek out a different veteran each year, and honor them in some small way.

This year our search took us far and wide and... next door. Our neighbor, Justin Bakow, is a true American hero. He is a trained sniper with the U.S. Army Airborne Rangers, and recently spent a year in what I imagine are some of the most difficult, dangerous conditions a soldier could face. He served in "the tip of the spear" alongside our nation's best and brightest in a rugged, remote section of Afghanistan. He came home safely, to the great relief of his parents, but too many of his comrades did not. 

Justin isn't the only hero in this story. When he left for Afghanistan, he said goodbye to the parents who would probably say they loved him more than the breath that they took. As they watched their only child walk away from them and directly into harm's way, their sacrifice in the name of our freedom became as important as Justin's. Their bravery matched his.

When we asked about the physical, emotional, and psychological strain he experienced during his tour, he only spoke of the "great honor" it was to serve his country, and the fact that he'll do it again if his country needs him to.

 Whoever said "they don't make 'em like they used to" has never met Justin Bakow.

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine! 
"America the Beautiful"
Words by Katharine Lee Bates,
Melody by Samuel Ward 

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