- ABOUT US
Karlie Tipton, Associate Editor
Photo by STEVEN WALKER
By Karlie Tipton
May 22, 2014
Most days, while perusing world news stories about young women being kidnapped in Nigeria, rape victims being persecuted in India, or drug cartels wreaking havoc on citizens in Mexico, I feel like I’ve won the lottery being born in the United States. And I am eternally grateful to the men and women who fought to ensure that I would never know what it’s like to live in a totalitarian state of fear. However, Memorial Day is not just about honoring those who have served in our country’s military, but about considering their sacrifice and its bearing on our past and our future.
Back when my husband was only my boyfriend of five years, he was sent to Iraq with the rest of the Oklahoma National Guard. I remember the day he left from Oklahoma State Fair Park. I was only twenty years old and had never really dealt with losing anyone before. Although we were surrounded by thousands of soldiers and their families, in my mind it was just Phillip, his parents, and I standing there in those last few minutes before he would get on a bus and leave us for almost a year. It’s really difficult to sort out all the emotions I felt at the time: anger that he was being taken away; sadness that I would only hear his voice or see his face via Skype for the foreseeable future; despair at the fact that, once his parents left for Kansas, I really wouldn’t have anyone to talk to who understood what I was going through; pride that he was doing something so brave; fear that he wouldn’t come back or, if he did, that he would never be the same person I love so much. There were about fifteen other emotions overwhelming me at the time, but before I could register everything, Phillip was being loaded onto his transport along with dozens of other guardsmen. Looking around the building, I was suddenly bombarded by the exact same things I was feeling inside. Parents, children, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, friends: Everyone had the beaten look of someone who had been crying for a very long time and didn’t quite know when they would be able to stop.
After a year of constant worry—infrequent conversations with him didn’t help, since he was often talking to me from under his bed because of rocket attacks—he finally came home, safe and mentally sound. I understand how lucky we are. All we had to endure was one tense year apart. But some families were not so lucky.
Phillip Ybarra, third from right
According to the Washington Post, almost 5,000 service members died in Iraq and more than 2,000 in Afghanistan. As an American, a citizen of a world that is growing closer every day, and a member of the human race, I believe that it is my duty to consider exactly what that number—6,805, to be precise—means.
As I drive around my neighborhood on Monday, I’m sure I will see dozens of American flags, and it will fill my heart with pride. I only hope that those citizens, between driving to the lake and firing up their grills, take the time to consider that Memorial Day is not just a day to plant your flag and be done, but a day, above all, to memorialize those who gave their lives so we wouldn’t have to.