Lest I continue my complacent way, help me to remember somehow out there, a man died for me today. As long as there be war, I then must ask and answer, am I worth dying for?”
This was a poem Eleanor Roosevelt kept in her wallet during WWII, it can be seen on a plaque at Pearl Harbor. My grandmother mentioned this quote before I was to take off to see Pearl Harbor. With tears in her eyes, she said “it really gives you something to think about. What makes us worth it?” My grandmother was born in 1939, just a few years before the Pearl Harbor attacks. I can imagine, when she visited Pearl Harbor, she had a similar reaction to my time at the Ground Zero Memorial, where I broke down in tears.
This blog began to be written just two hours after leaving Pearl Harbor, I was scribbling in my notebook at the airport waiting for my plane to board. As I stood near the gate, off the previous flight came 6 Marines and 3 Seamen, a roar of applause overcame the concourse as they walked through the airport. Shortly after, the gate agent came over the intercom, and with soft voice said “Ladies and gentlemen, today we will be bringing home a fallen serviceman, we ask for a moment of silence as he is loaded onto the plane.” I looked around before bowing my head, tears filled the eyes of the passengers, and one went on his knees to pray, while others respectfully bowed their heads. I was overcome with emotion, not 4 hours beforehand had I seen the quote at Pearl Harbor asking if I was worth dying for.
The plane ride was a long trek, but I couldn’t sleep. 30 minutes before landing the pilot came over the intercom and said “Ladies and gentlemen, as mentioned before, today we are bringing home a fallen Marine. There is a sergeant aboard who is escorting him to New York; he says that the Marine was a good kid who was doing what he loved. So we ask that you remain seated after landing as to allow the Sergeant to escort the Marine.” I looked around me, again there were people with tears in their eyes (myself included) and others had begun to pray. The Marine was allowed off the plane first, and the passengers applauded.
I know this blog doesn’t have much to do with traveling advice, but I needed to share this story. I am from a small town, where the majority of the town has served or is currently serving, it was never a question whether we supported our troops or not. But that day was a kick to my gut. The entire plane ride I asked myself was I truly worth dying for? What makes me worth it? Why did he die? Why did someone I know get shot three times in the chest? What makes me worth it?
I realized that we live in such a fast paced world, that sometimes we need to stop and realize how truly blessed we are. We are free because of the men and women who selflessly fought for our freedom. To all who have served and who are currently serving, I say this with every ounce of respect: thank you.