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As Americans, we take our many blessings for granted. Sure, many of us are worried about the economy, our jobs the course we are on. Thankfully, none of us fears a Foreign enemy. Yes I know we have to be diligent and guard against terrorism, but the reality is we have not been attacked on our soil since 9/11. All of us owe that to the American Men and Women of the Armed Forces who toil in our name and in service to us and all humanity in the name of freedom. For those of you that take issue with that, the rest of us will pray for you tonight.

The reality is, the American Soldier saved the twentieth Century and is hard at work on the twenty-first. Because of him the last Jew did not die at Auschwitz, The last Bosnian Muslim did not die during the ethnic cleansing and over 300 million people were freed from oppression. Millions of hungry and homeless people were helped after the tsunami in the South Pacific and and many more in humanitarian missions around the globe at differing time in the last century. They restored peace to the Korean peninsula – even if it is a tenuous one – and prevented the obliteration of freedom and peoples rights in dozens of other places around the globe just by their mere presence. The blessings we enjoy are underpinned by the sacrifice in blood and devotion they make for us.

Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

So if you wonder what it is that sets the American Warrior apart from all others that went before him and after him. It is the core principles of the American people as laid out in its Constitution and its Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal” and granted the inalienable rights of freedom by our creator. It is their faith in the goodness of the American way. They volunteer, they leave their families for extended periods for pay that most Americans would not take for a regular job…all for the simple driving core conviction that nothing in life is more precious than freedom. That makes it worthy of any and all sacrifice.

We send them in harms way, the best equipped and trained fighting force ever to walk the planet. We burden them with Rules of Engagement that make their task more difficult but which in the end bide them in good stead with those that could suffer the consequences of their presence. We have the greatest destructive power available to any Army and have used it only for the ultimate purpose of preserving freedom and saving lives and, when we break things, we fix it better than it was before. We separate them from their families for extended periods, require they not question our authority and yet,,,,they do so with such great honor and distinction and effectiveness. Truly…we are blessed.

When you see a soldier next, make the effort to walk up to them and thank them. If you can, buy them a drink or lunch. Thank them for all their sacrifice and dedication. Their faith sustains not only them but you as well. They do what they do for the meager pay we grant them because within them we have imbued them with the core conviction that is America. They break things and kill evil people at the risk of paying what Lincoln called the

fullest measure of devotion

many have paid that price for you and I and many thousands more paid a slightly smaller, but possibly more hellish price they have to live with every day. We need to acknowledge that and allow it to humble us. If you do, it will bring you to tears and fill your heart with joy and pride.

This has been on my mind for some time. Thanksgiving week, our entire family went on a cruise. On the second night of the cruise, I noticed a Marine Gunnery Sargent enter the dining room in full dress uniform. He had a full panel of Expeditionary, Campaign and Service medals. Having never had the honor to serve, I do not know what they all were specifically, but it was clear to me that he had had a long, distinguished career and served in harms way many times. I was struck by his presence and humbled by the sacrifices he had made that allowed my family the blessings we enjoy without fear of any enemy. Great swaths of people on continents around the world carry this fear everywhere.

I went to the Maitre D and asked him to send a bottle of Champagne to the table. The Maitre D asked what he should say it was for and from who. I told him to just say it was from a “grateful American family”. Later, as we were eating, the Gunnery Sargent came up to me and thanked me. I was dumbstruck. I, who owed my freedom and prosperity to the sacrifices he has made in my name for the last twenty plus years was being thanked by him for the simple gesture of showing him my gratitude. I later figured out that that is the essential nature of all that serve, they serve to be able to show the rest of us their gratitude for the gifts that God and America have bestowed on all of us. I kept thinking about this specific aspect and another thought occurred to me. He had a large extended family with him. I got up and went over to his table and I looked dat all his family members and I said to them…”as much as my family appreciates the service and sacrifices of the Sargent, we are in ” awe of the sacrifices they made to support him in doing so”.

I did not do it for me. My family will go to great lengths to do for others, just do not ever look for us to be seeking credit for doing so. I expected nothing. But my rewards were to come. I felt better about the world in general the rest of the week. On Thursday, I noticed an Army Sargent Major in full dress uniform in the dining room, so I did the same thing. Again, later, while I was eating that Sargent came up to me and thanked me. Life is truly bizarre.

So I, am the father of a sixteen year old son. He is the joy of my life and I would not trade a day of my life for anyone else on this planet because he is my son. To be sure, he is still a teenager very much like I was. He knows more that me after sixteen years than my fifty-five. There are days if he worked for me, I’d fire him, days if I was married to him, I’d divorce him and days I really wonder if he gets it.

We were home a week and we were in the office and he looked at me kind of sheepishly and said…”what would say if I told you I wanted to enlist in the Marines?”. So my reward for all of this in the end was a sign from God, that despite any frustration I may have with my Son, at his core, he gets it. I will still worry about his future, I will still have to kick him in the butt from time to time, but I will never have to worry that I did not do right by him. I could not ask for any greater gift.

So think about all your blessings. Sure you may be worried about the economy, but remember this. If everything rolled over tomorrow, you lost your job, your home everything you own, you would still wake the next day…with your family safe and free to begin all over again and with the opportunity to achieve again what you had previously. Could you really ask for anything more?

Before starting this post, I went on line and made a donation to the Wounded Warrior Project for those that have paid a “slightly lower, more hellish price” that the “fullest measure of devotion”. While Lincoln meant it the most solemn of terms, for me their service is the fullest measure of devotion I can ever expect. For those that have paid that “fullest” price or suffered the lasting pain and damage of serious wounding, well, I can only cry at their sacrifice and cry out to God…

God, protect all that endeavor to serve the preservation of freedom. Assuage their pain, lessen their burdens, allow them the peace they toil to preserve. Please do the same for all that love them.

Merry Christmas to all, especially those that are serving in harms way and most especially to their families may God protect and keep you all.