At reunion, I found out that one of my best friends from high school, whom I shall simply refer to as J., is about to be deployed to Iraq. J. and I go back to about age 12 or 13, and we've always had a lot of good conversations about many different topics, especially politics. Our political views have diverged somewhat since high school, but we're able to "agree to disagree" when we talk, and explain why we stand where we stand.
Anyway, he wasn't at reunion, but one of our mutual friends told me about the imminent deployment. Now, I knew that after 9/11, J. had chosen to join the naval reserve, something for which I respected him very highly. After all, I know for a fact it's not something I could ever do, even though I believe deeply in the importance of the military and a strong defense. (And yes, this is coming from the left-leaning liberal Democrat who grew up in New York City and now lives in Massachusetts.) J. made the decision to defend the freedoms we enjoy in this country, and if it weren't for people like him, we might lose those freedoms.
I just got off the phone with J. a few minutes ago, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't concerned for his safety. At the same time, though, I'm honored to be his friend.
At the end of our phone call, I thanked J. for what he's doing, and he told me a story of how three years ago, a UPS delivery man who saw him in uniform approached him and said something like, "I just want to thank you for your service." He says it meant a lot -- indeed, it meant so much, that he remembers it three years later.
Nomi and I have made a point of attending the town's Memorial Day and Veterans Day observances when we can, and I've always noticed how there's usually only a handful of people there. In particular, I've seen more people I recognize from the conservative or Republican side of town than the liberal or Democratic side. I recently met a lieutenant in the navy, and I made a point of thanking him for his service, and one of my friends thanked him as well. I asked the lieutenant, who has become a friend, if he gets thanked a lot. He told me he does get thanked, but not as much in the northeast as in other parts of the country. (I hope I remembered his response correctly; I'd hate to be wrong on that.) From my perspective, both what he said and what J. said makes it even more important for those of us on the liberal side to thank the soldiers who are working for us every day.
If you see someone in uniform, thank them. Let them know you appreciate their service. It makes a difference.
And as for my friend J., I'll be thinking of him every sabbath morning in synagogue, when we all stand for the rabbi's recitation of the Prayer for American Soldiers. I usually don't wear my religion or my politics on my sleeve, but in this case I'll make an exception. May God grant J. and all our soldiers safety, and may we soon see an end to the war.