On January 3, 2008 Golf Magazine published an article by David Feherty who was returning from a USO tour in the Middle East. About to return home, he stood as they loaded the caskets next to where he was to be seated on the flight. He commented that, at first, he had presumed they would be in a separate hold, but then realized that they deserved to be seated with everyone else, “…as it should be. This wasn’t cargo. This was another passenger” he wrote. He went on to say:
I wish I knew who was in that casket — one of the 3,887 Americans killed in Iraq as of December — so I could write to the family to tell them what an honor it was to be on the same airplane as their son or daughter, and to thank them.
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America is full of great Americans, but people like David take being one to a whole new level. You see, many of you know David as golf’s wisecracking commentator (who is actually of Irish descent). He only recently became an American citizen and now calls America his home.
He could be just like many Europeans who come here and make a fortune while insulting the country that gives him the opportunity to do so, but he opted instead to become an American citizen and show his gratitude for this great land by going overseas to tell our troops how much their efforts mean to him. In my eyes, that makes him a better American than most natural-born citizens.
Of course, people emigrate all of the time, but take a moment to stop and think; if you were born here, what would it take for you to leave America for a better life? I can’t even imagine a scenario where I feel like my opportunities would be better elsewhere. So when I think of what it must take for someone to leave their country, especially a reasonably civilized country like Ireland, it makes me remember how great this nation really is.
What makes it great? America has an amazing Constitution regardless of what Justice Ginsberg believes, but more importantly, it has an amazing group of volunteers who continue to put their lives on the line to defend it.
The self-preservation instinct is in all animals, and we humans are no exception. However, our military put themselves in harm’s way every single day for what is often a low-paying job, not because of the pay, but because they have no qualms about putting the safety of others in front of their own for no other reason than, “it’s the right thing to do.”
David has been a huge supporter of our troops through the Wounded Warrior Project. We as Americans, for better or worse, are the proverbial spoiled children who often take for granted the freedoms we were born with and enjoy 24/7. While the Constitution outlined them, it’s only a piece of paper and cannot protect us from harm. Only men and women with honor, courage, bravery, and guns can.
It’s shameful when you see people like the Westboro Baptist followers, whom all were most likely born here yet have no compunction about disrespecting the people who keep them safe, while immigrants like David who weren’t go out of their way to honor those who serve.
I also felt severe shame after the first Republican primary debate when a gay soldier came on the video screen and was booed. It was appalling to me that no one on stage felt compelled to stand up and say, “What is wrong with you people? That man is putting his life on the line for you. Show some respect.” (Which is what I was screaming at my TV)
Whether you agree with their sexual habits or not, does it really excuse booing someone that is risking their life for you?
Close your eyes and imagine bullets whizzing by your head and not knowing where they’re coming from. Imagine being thousands of miles from those you love for not just months, but years. Imagine having 50+ lbs of gear on you suffering in the desert heat because, if you didn’t, a projectile would likely kill you. Imagine driving down the highway and seeing every piece of debris on the side of the road as a possible exploding device about to take your life. Imagine exiting a boat on a beach only to see people on top of a hill shooting at you and your brethren when you have literally nowhere to hide. Imagine flying a plane and seeing antiaircraft ordinance blazing by your wings or your radar lighting up because another plane is behind you with missile lock. Imagine being a lone sniper with your eyes on a scope for days waiting for one good shot.
Did you close your eyes and imagine these things? Guess what, our men and women in the military don’t have to. They live it, and if they’re lucky, live through it. Any time you find yourself complaining, just stop. You don’t know sacrifice like they do, and thanks to them, you’ll never have to.
So on this Memorial Day, I hope that we all can learn from David Feherty, a truly great American, how to treat other great Americans, our men and women in uniform.
From me, to every soldier past, present, and future, THANK YOU and happy Memorial Day!