There is an old saying. The only two places you can have peace in your life is in your own home or in your grave. I have found that statement to be true.
Last year, the news of yet another casualty of war was reported in our area. Some were saddened and hurt because he was a young man, others because of who he was. But how is it that someone who has left this life on earth can still bring peace to the living?
Growing up, I never imagined losing my older brother. From the time we spent chasing puppies and arguing over which name to give them, to trying to cross frozen ditches in the winter time, he was my inspiration.
I also never thought that the brother I knew to be so quiet and calm could make such a loud and outspoken statement to the world in the wake of a moment that normally brings about total silence.
How? I asked myself.
I figured that after the funeral everything would go back to normal. Everyone would say his name in a group conversation or joke about the things that he used to do. I never thought that he would actually be the one talking.
I thought about how the news and media, magazines and newspapers, even old ladies who wanted to just give me a hug and a peppermint, all wanted to tell his story. They wanted the world to know what he had done, and how he had sacrificed. After news flashes and many phone calls, it was clear that he had become pretty popular around the Mid-South.
The other day, after school was let out early due to a winter weather advisory, I sat in the garage at home playing video games. The land line phone began to ring and everyone in the house started to shout, “Don’t get that, it’s a telemarketer!” A strong sense of “who could it be” compelled my mother to answer it anyway. Sitting in the garage I began to listen, as my mom put on her proper voice and began to answer repeatedly, “Yes, yes, yes.” Who could this have been on the phone? To be honest, I thought it was my brother, just calling to say, “Hey guys, what’s up? Just giving ya’ll a wake-up call.”
Well, it was a wake-up call. It was the Oprah Winfrey Show. I immediately began to wonder why they were calling, was it for me, or was it for ME. The lady on the phone, Julie, told us that they were doing a show on “fallen soldiers.” She said that as she researched fallen troops, she came across William’s article and it moved her. She ask that we e-mail her pictures and a write up and said that the picture would be displayed on a screen behind Oprah.
After my mom agreed to everything and hung up the phone, I asked her the most obvious question: will we be on the Oprah show? Surprisingly, she didn’t even think to ask. After a few minutes I called the lady back and asked her if it would be okay if my mother and I attended. The rest is a true act of God, seeing as though it was already 10 p.m. and we had to be at the studio in Chicago by 11:15 a.m.
Some consider it a miracle, some consider it a once in a lifetime opportunity. I believe that when someone sacrifice’s their self, they unlocked things that are not a miracle, that are not a once in a lifetime opportunity; but a continuous explanation of why they left and where they want us to go.
As I sat in Harpo Studio, I began to wonder if I was there for Oprah, or if I was there for my brother. It’s hard to think of someone else when you are consumed in trying to be noticed and called upon. Surprisingly, that was exactly what the show was about. Oprah’s first two guest were two well known men: Tom Brochav, the legendary anchor, and Woodson, who broke the legendary Watergate scandal that led to President Nixon’s resignation. As they spoke, they explained how America has seemingly forgotten how to appreciate our fallen soldiers, as well as the ones who are continuing to fight for our freedom. Oprah added that she also never really showed that great appreciation until Brochav called her and opened her eyes.
After nearly two hours of listening to Oprah, Brochav, and Woodson, it suddenly became clear to me that we don’t appreciate those that sacrificed their physical lives. We also don’t acknowledge those who death passed over, but left them here with other things that are just as deadly. I was changed. I now knew that I wasn’t here for my brother, or me, or my town, but I was here for all those who serve in selfless ways to ensure our foreign and domestic freedom.
When that segment of the show ended, Oprah spoke to her audience to see what they had to say. I was simply speechless but after my mother raised her hand and told Oprah our story, I had to say something as well. As I spoke, Oprah lit up with understanding. She began to smile and nod her head. After I finished, she told me to come up on stage and take a picture with her. So that’s exactly what my mother and I did.
After a few more minutes of fixing her hair, and straightening her clothes, it was time to welcome the next special guest. In a moment that could easily be listed as a once in a lifetime moment, Oprah stood and welcomed the First Lady herself. Michelle Obama. Mrs. Obama spoke about military families that touched her life, and also felt that as a nation we were not all appreciating our fallen friends.
From my seat which was about four feet from Mrs. Obama and Oprah, I felt more compelled to go out and show greater appreciation than the feeling of rushing the stage that I had in the beginning. This experience wasn’t about one person, it was about all persons.
Sure, I am grateful of the experience, but I want to be grateful for more. Let us remember all those who died for our freedom, those who are fighting for our freedom, and unfortunately, all those who will die in the future to ensure that freedom. If my brother hadn’t have sacrificed himself for us, I probably wouldn’t have had that experience. Since he died, I present arms to him, his comrades, and the world. It’s funny how someone who was so quiet and humble, is making such a loud and heard statement. He may be slain, but he’s still serving his country, just like all those who have fought for our freedom are continuing to do.
God Bless America.