In the news lately has been the story of an extraordinary coach at a little college in New York, Maritime in the Bronx. Clayton Kendrick-Holmes’ players wear principles on their jerseys instead of names; “family”, “respect”, “honesty”, etc. And he has led his unknown team to a potential championship. He learned, in July, that he was being called up by the Navy (he is a reservist) to serve in Afghanistan. He doesn’t think of himself as extraordinary and he did not question his deployment, it is what he signed up for.
Not everyone is cut out to be a soldier. It is clear that you are not likely to be a soldier, you are not a fighter, like your mother you are an arguer, a word person. But freedom has, historically, required soldiers. I served, your grandfathers served, Ruben and Big Mike served. That requires respect.
Not all policemen are honest, not all firemen are brave. But those who serve in these direct ways deserve the ultimate respect. They are willing to put their lives on the line to protect us. Not all service demands such great sacrifice. But most service demands some sacrifice, of time, of money, of self.
But there are many ways of soldiering. All over America kids are earning college scholarships by giving back, working for Americorps or Vista, helping with the environment, public safety, literacy, housing, poverty, to name just a few. Some are working with Habitat for Humanity, building homes for low income families. Some work with kids at the local library, upgrading literacy skills. Others serve in their churches, mosques and temples, volunteering at food banks and soup kitchens and homeless shelters.
As great as the need is worldwide, and it is great indeed, there is great need here at home as well. You know I believe that you should always ask questions of authority, develop your own ideas and talk about them. Our democracy gives you the freedom to do those things. No matter how much you disagree with our leaders, current policies or the way in which others see things, the very right to disagree, out loud and in public, is the freedom you have here that so many others don’t. Freedoms have a price. For soldiers it may be their lives, for others time or money.
So remember, it is important to give back in some way, to express your gratitude in a concrete manner for the “blessings of liberty” which are not equally enjoyed yet in this country. Like the coach who found a way to serve before he was called up, serve willingly. To help make those blessings equal, to provide for those less fortunate, is a worthy endeavor, however you choose to do it.