I got a kick out of seeing the actor Kevin Costner in Kentucky recently. Not because I'm star-stuck, but because of what he said and the thoughts he shared about our nation's military.
He actually moved me a little.
He was the keynote speaker at the recent unveiling of the 11th Aviation Command Memorial recognizing the fallen soldiers under its command and subordinate units at Fort Knox, KY.
Mr. Costner told (about 200 of) us that he has never served in the military and has never felt the pain of a loved one's death due to combat. "When I've had to imagine myself in a battle, a life or death struggle, it is just that, my imagination," he said.
Well-chosen and poignant words for such a solemn event.
I'm not sure of what I or the others attending were expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that this was not made into a Hollywood event because of Mr. Costner's presence.
As a military veteran and someone who works everyday to ensure veterans and their families are always in the equation, I appreciated Mr. Costner's candidness in reminding us of the difference between the real heroes and those who play heroes. He brought the star power, but he wasn't the story. And he clearly did not blur the lines between his imagination and heroes of the real world.
I left the event renewed... renewed in my commitment to continue building USA Cares' ability to aid military families when they encounter financial challenges not of their fault. I also left a little sad, wondering if the touching event would have gathered the same attention if it had not been for Mr. Costner's presence.
I encourage you to never blur the lines. The military isn't play acting when they place themselves in harm's way for the good of this world. I also encourage you, especially as we approach our nation's 114th observance of Memorial Day, to remember this:
When you peacefully walk down the street, or rightfully stand in the rain at the school bus stop with your child who is on their way to getting an education, remember that your ability to do that defines freedom -- your freedom. And that freedom is not and has never been free.
War and the fight to maintain our freedom can bring personal tragedy to the troops and their families. And many families are now battling a war within themselves just trying to keep their sanity after losing a loved one.
These families are also heroes. And I ask that we keep sight of them and respect them for the struggles they might endure when a loved one leaves to place themselves in harm's way for all of us.
Among the real heroes and their families that Mr. Costner spoke of are the crew of a Chinook CH-47D known as "Extortion 17" that crashed last August in Afghanistan.
I salute: Chief Warrant Officer 5 David Carter, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Bryan Nichols, Sgt. Alexander Bennett and Spc. Spencer Duncan.
Learn how you can volunteer your time or donate to help a post-9/11 military family here.