Memorializing people, service, and the impact of choices

May 26, 2014

Memorial Day means different things to various people; saluting soldiers whom have passed, appreciating active and veteran service members in the armed forces, respect and gratitude for the freedoms we have, and the associated costs that brought us those freedoms. Some see Memorial Day for retail sales and a day off from work. Thanks to the afformentioned sacrifices made for freedom, each interpretation is entirely within the rights of those who hold them.

 

On this day, I'd like to explore a different side of sacrifice and the soldiers who make these choices to defend their countries, morals, and values. What leads a person to choose a path of military defense? The same question can be asked for those who choose governmental leadership, any form of selfless sacrifice, or a rise to power in some capacity? The answer is, of course, many things, including lived experiences, attachment, development, perception, environmental influences, and presenting options for living/surviving. Most of us value our freedom, country, and fellow human (let's not leave out pets), but there are clearly characteristics (shaped in biology and sociology) which influence and distinguish those who choose one path over the other. 

 

While watching the History Channel's new mini series, The World Wars, I cannot help but analyze the reported sequences of events, the people, and the circumstances surrounding decisions that impacted the greater world as we know it. Understanding these key players in the "30 years war" helps us understand their perceptions and the choices they made to protect their beliefs. For instance, Adolf Hitler was a starving artist in his youth. Left with no family or interpersonal connection, minimal resources, and perceivably limited options, he jumped at the opportunity to join a group where he would be recognized as significant, gain a sense of empowerment and validation of self, and have purpose. This organization was, of course, the German Army. Each experience, thereafter, shaped biased perceptions and choices that impacted history significantly. Though, most humans are incapable of executing the level of cruelty and narcisism for which Hitler is now known, we do make an impact on families, society, and even the world, just thorugh decisions and behaviors shaped by perception and lived experience.

 

A British private chose not to shoot Hitler on the battle field, most likely because of moral belief or some other circumstance we will never know. Imagine how this private would have impacted the world had he made a different decision.

 

The point to take away from history such as this, it to truly understand the impact of our behavior, interactions, and influences from our respective environments. How you treat someone impacts how they treat others; a cycle which is repeated indefinitely.

 

Some who lack empathy and regard for others are believed to be the result of organic neurobiological development. Others are believed to develop this pathology from other sources, such as emotional trauma, traumatic brain injury, developmental disabilities, attachment, etc. If we learn nothing else from history, we need to understand that who we are and what we do is meaningful. Make mindful decisions, and hold yourself accountable for the impact your decisions make, both positive and negative.

 

Imagine how bullying would be affected if we all truly understood the magnitude of every interaction. This level of enlightenment has been further diminished by social media and vicarious reality; however, that is a topic for another post.

 

Thank you to all who have served and sacrificed for the freedoms we hold dear.

Robert Harden, Frank Harden, Julian Thomas, Sky Bryant, Robert Woods, Paxton Campbell, Kyle Stewart, Adam McDonald, Randall Ballenger, Joseph Mahoney, Ryan Swaims, Trey Johnson, Adam Wiley, Desiree Peyman, Amy Northington, Tyler McSpadden, Jayme Temple, Robert Chandler, Megan McCay, and the many other friends and family who have served in the armed forces.

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