at what cost

We glamorize warfare as a society, build games, movies, and sports around the idea of the ultimate competition, around a testosterone-filled pursuit of some greater ideal or something so crass as beating a demonized enemy to a pulp. As a culture we look toward the patriotic charisma of the clean-cut soldiers image, flag waving in the background. Media pumps this relentlessly.
As a culture we recognize the costs of war in statistics, in numbers. Rare are the moments, the articles, the movies or documentaries that so pay attention to the sacrifices necessary to perpetuate it. Instead, the soldiers pay in their lives, their limbs, their minds. They pay when they lose friends, brothers, sisters. Their families bear the burden of their loss, of their changes physical and mental, of their forever-altered world. Their parents, children, husbands, wives, cousins…the costs run manifold through individual lives. But as a culture, as a whole, what do we pay in exchange for such sacrifice? What precautions do we take to ensure that as a nation we do not ask for such sacrifice unnecessarily?
Tonight, in recognition of the anniversary of D-Day, two other friends and I watched Saving Private Ryan. It brought again a reminder of the sacrifices laid down by the many soldiers of World War II, by the many men and women who laid down so much for something so clear. It brought to focus how much we ask of someone so young when we send a teenager to fight. How much a person can offer to another, to give the ultimate gift, a life.
How again can we ensure that as a nation we do not ask for this, for the ultimate sacrifice, without just cause? And how, as a culture, as a person, do we take the time to remember, to honor, and to continually value that which has been offered?
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In the story set out in Saving Private Ryan, many good young men die to save one man. Ryan, the one man, is told by the dying captain of those sent to save him to earn what he has been given. Simple words, “earn it.” Told to live a life that is worth the deaths of many others.
Ryan, aged, returns to the cemetery at Normandy to say thank you to the men who offered him life with theirs. He tells them that he tried to lead a good life, tried to be a good man. What morality would you carry if holding it forth for such a sacrifice?
And who do you hold your morality for? When striving to be a good person, to grow, to better yourself – who for? Do you do it for yourself? For your family? Your husband? Your wife? God? A friend? A lover? Someone who died for you? To whom do you offer your mistakes and accidents, foibles and faults for forgiveness? For challenges overcome, to whom do you offer your pride?
I have not been to war, but I offer some amount toward those who go forth as they were asked. I am not a religious man, but I strive to grow for the wide circle of humanity. I am not as tightly knit with the people I am related to as could be, but I seek to match, to follow and exceed the example set by the good I have seen in my family, in my mother, in my father. I am friends with many, close with few, but offer to those I love as much I can in return for the kindness granted me. I make mistakes, as we all do, and my intentions are often far greater than my actions, but I ask forgiveness from those I know as I learn how to forgive in return.
I am far from a perfect man, but I work to be a good man, to become a better man.

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