A set of sky blue eyes looked down at this mother and large muscled arms reached out to offer her a true hug of gratitude and goodbye. The nineteen-year-old was dressed in blue jeans and a plain hoodie, an army-issued backpack tightened behind him. He said a stoic goodbye to the others around him: his dad, his brothers, his sweet, young girlfriend. And then he proudly turned and held his head high as he walked the shiny tiled hall to his gate. He was leaving for basic training, and he was already filled with a sense of duty and military pride.
Those left behind were devastated. Their son, so young with a bright baseball career ahead had surprised the family over the holidays with his plans to leave college and join the ranks of those defending American freedom. He didn’t make excuses, he didn’t fabricate grand plans, but he spoke plainly: “It has been in my heart a long time.” “I want to serve my country.” “This is where I belong.” And in just weeks, he was shipped off.
With a courage unknown to most of us, he left the comfort of a nice home, strong family, tight community and certain future to live for something greater. His desire was simply to be a part of the fabric that holds our country together. And there are many others, just like him, who refuse to talk about doing hard things, but instead set off and do them. Missionaries, pastors, service corps, aid/relief workers, and many community servants put their lives on the back burner because they simply desire to make sure the rest of us can live freely.
Because of Caleb, and the many other young men and women just like him, I am able to worship in small Baptist church each week where we sing “Amazing Grace” and “There’s Power in the Blood” with great conviction.
Because of Caleb, and the many other young men and women just like him, I am able to homeschool my children where we may create galaxy cookies and clay models of the human body, or spend afternoons reading The Hobbit or visiting a museum.
Because of Caleb, and the many other young men and women just like him, I can participate in 5K color run or attempt a triathlon or a Spartan race, even though I am far from an elite athlete.
Because of Caleb and the many other young men and women like him, I can binge on Netflix or go nuts over March Madness. I can create a fantasy football team and join a league with my sons. I can watch the Cardinals live in St. Louis or the Razorbacks on the Hill. I can ride in a hot air balloon in California or soak in the sunset in Miami.
I can plant a garden, host a swim party, plan a summer wedding, color my hair, re-decorate my living room, or wait until February to take down Christmas lights. I can quit my job, quit my diet, max out a credit card, or sell all my possessions in a garage sale. I can write my thoughts and publish them on the world wide web, with no fear of persecution or pain.
How comfortable my life can be! How enjoyable my days with family and friends! And this idealistic American dream did not come without a price, nor is it maintained without the sacrifice of men and women, like Caleb.
To all our servicemen and women, I thank you. Sincerely and deeply, and I ask your forgiveness when I fail to honor you as I should. And to Caleb, I can’t wait to see you again!