I was naturalized as a US citizen in 2008. Despite this, I’m American in culture only; my heart and national pride remain firmly grounded in my British heritage.
I no longer have an accent, and my ties to England only remain in traces: my birth certificate, my obsession with ales, my parent’s lingering accents.
Growing up a resident alien, unable to vote, and in turn unable to voice my opinions about the country, I felt an odd disassociation with America. Sometimes I felt like I didn’t belong. Sometimes I felt like my humor and tastes were extra foreign.
We lived in the America, but we were crappy Americans. We didn’t eat PB&J or meatloaf. My mom put butter on all our sandwiches. We celebrated Thanksgiving, but only because everyone else did. Fourth of July felt like national betrayal; could I in good conscience celebrate my physical country’s victory over my birth country, even if it was hundreds of years ago?
But as I grew up, I started appreciating what other Americans appreciate. Freedom and french fries and Federal holidays. As I learned to be more American, I still distanced myself from war and military service. It could be because I’m a wuss or just dislike guns, but I’ve always considered myself a through-and-through conscientious objector.
In college, I lived with two Marines. They were dedicated soldiers, and taught me a lot about sacrifice for country. My view of service began to change. Both of my grandfathers served, albeit in a different country. Some of my best friends, neighbors, and coworkers have given their time, energy, and devotion to their country. I’d be willfully ignoring everything around me if I didn’t take time to appreciate how much military service has impacted my life.
My grandfather (mother’s side) gave me his British Armed Forces WW2 victory medal a few weeks ago. I wasn’t sure what to do with it. It’s a very impressive looking medal, but I don’t have a jacket to mount it on, or any other good way to display it. So, as is my nature, I took a bunch of pictures of it.
As I snapped dozens of pictures, I thought about what this little medallion meant. It is a microcosm of honor, bravery, commitment, and nationalism. A small chunk of .800 silver with a date stamp is worth more than it’s weight in gold.
This Memorial Day, remember that military service is not about war. It is a day to remember and reflect on bravery, sacrifice, and putting something bigger than yourself first. It is about upholding what you believe in, whether you want to or not. It is about accepting that sometimes, you have to fight for what you believe is right.
Thank you to my Grandpa Haynes for his service as a paratrooper in WW2. Thank you for the excellent medal, which I will cherish for my entire life until a time when I can pass it on to my son. Thank you to everyone out there who has ever donned a uniform for his or her country, ally or enemy, for your commitment to valor.
Thank you, because I know I couldn’t have done something so selfless and brave.