Remembering to Forget
As I rose on September 11, 2001, life was different. I had just left active duty in the Army. I was living in a small rental house with two 3 year olds and a pregnant wife. I had been job hunting and a few very nice firms had shown some interest. In fact, I was to have a second interview the next week. Then it happened. The entire world changed.
Today, while serving in Kandahar, Afghanistan, we honored our dead, both from that day and since, just a stone’s throw from the camp at which the terrorists trained for the attack on September 11th. It was good to remember. It was right to honor our fallen brothers and sisters who answered the call of a Nation deeply wounded. I must wonder though, if they wouldn’t want us to be able to forget.
I have been in Afghanistan for the better part of a year now. I suspect that when I return, there are some who will approach me at church or in the courthouse and ask: “Where have you been, it’s been awhile!” People have forgotten which one is my parking space. At least one person has forgotten that it’s MY office. I watch my friends and family from afar, usually via Facebook and I see date nights, BBQs, church activities, ladies nights, DIY projects, back to school pictures and anniversary photos. I see the ordinarily extraordinary lives of my fellow Americans. Not one of them is thinking, at that moment, of any of us here in Afghanistan…and that is exactly what I want. I suspect that may be exactly what many of us here want: Friends and family with no fear of an imminent attack; children able to play in the park and attend school with no threat of being kidnapped or beheaded by ISIS monsters; young women pursing an education without fear of being mutilated or enslaved. The option of “forgetting” is a gift from God delivered by an effective Military standing between us and these horrors that are reality for too many.
For my Grandfather and my Great-Uncle, the day was December 7, 1941. It was the most horrendous surprise attack in our Nation’s history. They answered the call. They fought, sacrificed and lost comrades in the war that followed. For me, the war was history. I didn’t fear the Japanese. I drove a Honda. My future intersected their past only when I eagerly awaited my first assignment to Germany. I too had the privilege of forgetting. My ability to grow up free, pursue an education and marry the pretty girl who knew that the “S” in Harry Truman’s name didn't stand for anything was a privilege borne of their victory. I have to admit, I didn't really think about it, but for maybe a moment on Pearl Harbor Day. I think that’s exactly what they were fighting for. A world where their grandchildren could forget what they could not.
I don’t mean to support ingratitude or argue for ignorance. It is good and right to pause and Never Forget. But, as a Soldier serving his tour in Afghanistan, I certainly hope that my grandchildren have the option of forgetting we were ever here, and I think it might be okay too if you happen to remember to Forget on your way to the BBQ or school play.