It is a fact that life is full of paradox, seemingly absurd or contradictory statements, events, or happenings that, when looked at clear-eyed and head-on, reveal deeper truths.
The month of May gives us some clear examples of life’s paradoxes. May’s spring flowers, its mornings filled with birdsongs, its longer, warmer days are annual signs of hope, renewal, and rebirth. At the beginning of the month of May, we honor the mothers in our lives for their life-giving, nurturing strength and loving support. And then, at the end of the month, we have Memorial Day, the annual day of remembrance for all who have fallen while serving the nation in times of war.
This video is filled with the faces of women in the flower of their youth. Some of them are even young mothers. Each face is beautiful. Some are smiling, joyful countenances. Others are more serious, revealing young women who are confident, sure of their place in the world. Some of the pictures are drawings, depictions done from favorite family pictures that captured the character and personality of the individual woman. And then we realize that each of these faces are of the women who have given their lives in service to our nation over the last two decades during the post 9/11 wars.
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With these faces we see the goodness of the world, the innocence and the beauty of life, but in this video we also experience that other reality of tragedy, sacrifice, suffering, pain and death that are a part of this life too. This juxtaposition of beauty and youthful confidence against the tragedy of war and its consequences, reveals a much deeper truth; the truth that life, and the gift of freedom, are both so ultimately dear and precious that, sometimes, sadly, great sacrifices are necessary to defend them.
The deep sorrow we feel staring into each one of these beautiful faces is a reflection of our own awareness of the preciousness of life, of its natural joys and unspeakable beauties that are all too often taken so quickly, so cruelly by our contradictory, seemingly never ending human failings, and the tragedy of war.
Let us keep this paradox in mind. Let us reflect upon it as we remember each one of these women who gave their last full measure in protecting the preciousness of life and liberty for all of us. Their courageous and noble self-sacrifices are beyond measure, beyond the speaking of it.
We have no words strong enough, or capacious enough, to encompass such losses, such sacrifices for life and liberty. They humble us all. Let us never forget them, or their brothers who have fallen. They were our spring flowers, they were our signs of hope, but they were also the heroes among us, those who were brave enough to place themselves between us and those who wish us harm.
Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.