Remembering Who’s Often Forgotten

Autumn - Orangevale, California
Entered on May 31, 2008
Age Group: Under 18
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I believe in opinions, in the right to share my opinions, and the right for others to disagree with my opinions. My beliefs are mine, and mine alone; I don’t expect others to have the same.

I believe in support. In empathy, in kindness, and most importantly, in thank-yous. I believe in my brother, an army soldier, and I believe in the many soldiers that risk and lose their lives to make sure my country is safe and free. This, I believe.

Every Memorial Day, my family and I go to a ceremony at Mount Vernon Mortuary, where my grandfather, a soldier, was buried. We sit by those graves, and we listen to the men and women talk about this great, beautiful country we live in. As I listen, I watch the little American flags placed on each individual grave flutter in the wind. I imagine that the harder they whip, the more they’re trying to say, and the more pride that’s radiating from the little piece of themselves that’s left in the earth.

After my brother was deployed to Iraq, my dad read a story about a boy named Alex Varela, a 19-year-old army veteran who had died while in Iraq, and received the Purple Heart. He had been the same age as one of my brothers, and even went to high school with him. So, needless to say, it hit close to home. Alex was buried in the same cemetery as my grandpa, and my dad decided that he would adopt him, in a way. Every time we went to the cemetery to visit my grandpa, we went and visited Alex Varela, too.

Those flowers and brief moments we were there with him made his mother’s eyes shine like the sun when we met her. In everything she did and said, whatever it was – laughing, smiling, talking, and even moving – exuded absolute pride for her son. She didn’t look sad at all, but she was more proud of her son than anyone I’ve ever seen in my life, and for that I am thankful. She might have not known it, but she also made me as proud of my brother as she was – and is – of her son.

I believe in these soldiers, my brother and Alex, and I thank God every day that people like them want to go out and risk their lives, sometimes lose them, just to make sure that I’m okay. That me, and every other person in America is all right, and free. I believe even more in those soldiers that can’t be heard. I believe those soldiers have a voice, and if that voice could be heard, it would say, “I’d do it all over again.” And they would.