By Kevin Reese
Corsicana Daily Sun
With 4th of July celebrations filling the evening air Thursday night, I’m once again reminded of my military days. Looking back over my Marine Corps career I remember good times and bad, times when people shook my hand and other times when they hated my guts. I remember seeing a few other places that made me glad to live here in the U.S.
I’ve also read that salty poem that gets passed around every Christmas about the lone Marine on duty, on Christmas Eve, sleeping on a cold floor in some distant land; it still stirs my soul and makes me proud to have served. That said, the truth is, I’ve also read similar Christmas poems that poignantly share the commitments made by soldiers, airmen, sailors and coast guardsmen.
The dose of reality veterans embrace through and through is that the commitment is the same regardless of your uniform – to the death, if necessary. So for me, holidays like the 4th of July, Memorial Day, Veterans Day and even Thanksgiving and Christmas, I also take time to really meditate on that selfless commitment my brothers and sisters-in-arms continue to make in defense of our way of life, our Constitution and every aspect of the Bill of Rights that guarantee our inalienable rights as citizens of this sovereign nation; even if some people don’t like my high capacity magazines.
That freedom I speak of isn’t free. It comes with a heavy price; one that is paid by selfless human beings who ask nothing in return. For many of us, our commitment to protect is not as much the product of choice as it is a sense of obligation – the product of pride and patriotism; we indeed live in a special place and amidst a melting-pot citizenry that, while faced with many challenges, rarely witnesses refugees heading the other way. For me, there is no better place to revel in liberty than our great outdoors. Whether hunting, shooting or simply sitting on a tailgate with a line in the water there are few better representations of freedom than enjoying our outdoor heritage.
I never take a sunset for granted. I’ve never had trouble reconciling the importance of freedom and the commitment of our military while witnessing the release of night’s stranglehold on day. I’ve always believed a simple sunrise is the best representation of many things, liberty and military duty included – a new day dawns – always a beacon of hope.
Embracing the wild outdoors means taking the good with the bad, stewardship of God’s creatures whether we like them or not; kind of like protecting our citizenry. Our military does not discriminate; they protect the likes of Westboro Baptist Church members just as quickly as fellow veterans; hard to swallow but true; it’s one reason I hold our military values in such high regard – everyone matters, all wildlife matters. I think veterans make some of the best stewards of our outdoors imaginable and I count myself fortunate to be among those ranks.
Whether this season has put you on your knees in front of the buck of your lifetime or in prayer, hoping today is the day, the take-away is freedom. You have the freedom to enjoy our outdoor heritage and millions of treasured acres as your playground. That right to witness the dawn of a new day from a treestand or ground blind has been established for you. Whether considering this fall hunting season or our nation’s current state, the one constant is that the sun will rise again; darkness lifted, we celebrate success or embrace do-overs on our own terms. This 4th of July I was exceedingly grateful for our pursuit of happiness and those who choose to protect it.
Hunt hard, hunt often and give credit where it’s due.
Kevin Reese can be reached for questions, comments and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.