I never imagined watching 'Saving Private Ryan' would send me on a thought-provoking emotional journey.
I wasn't even that eager to see it, but my husband and I had errands to run last Saturday and instead of having dinner out, we decided to come home and watch this movie that had won so many accolades. It was okay with me: as a baby boomer I had seen most of the war movies from the forties and fifties. And I'm a fan of Tom Hanks. I also felt restless and bored and this would be a nice evening's entertainment.
The movie opened and I witnessed the slaughter on Normandy Beach, with men dying right in front of me. While I knew it was a movie, I also knew these scenes of horror had actually taken place.
As I watched Captain Miller and a handful of men fight their way through, I was awestruck by their bravery and determination to do their jobs in the midst of such carnage. Later in the movie, I heard the low rumble of German tanks rolling into the decimated town by the bridge. More men were going to die. And when the tank's big gun slowly swiveled toward the camera, my hands broke out in a clammy sweat. In the final scenes, when Captain Miller told Private Ryan to earn the gift of his life, I felt ashamed, thinking of my earlier wailing of boredom.
What have I done to earn the legacy these brave men left for me and every other American citizen? Did these men, together with all the veterans of other wars, fight and die for people like me to talk about boredom? My husband, who is also a veteran of World War II, said that's exactly why he and other men fought--to give me the freedom to express my boredom and the ability to do something about it.
He doesn't talk much about his two years under fire aboard the U.S.S. Iowa, but I know of his bravery and honor. To him I say, 'Thank you." I'd also like to thank the other veterans in my family: my grandfather, father, two uncles and my son, a six-year veteran of the U.S. Navy.
The will to live is so very strong and I don't know that I wouldn't have been cowering on the staircase just as it showed in the movie. Thank God so many men and women overcame their terror to fight for me. Because of them, my country's flag flies proud and strong.
If I could, just for a moment, assume the honor of a ritual earned by every man and woman who has ever worn a uniform to fight for my freedom, I lift my right hand in a sharp salute to honor you. It's because of you that I have the right to say, "I'm bored" or "I don't like this" or anything else I might think or feel. I thank you.