I am thinking back to the time I visited Czechoslovakia as a young newlywed. Things weren't so peachy for their newlyweds' and people back in the 70's in the now Czech Republic. There was a very restrictive government in place at that time.
I remember enjoying a delicious lunch in the Czech Republic, and then asking what was the meat? It was "Venison" , I was told. I had never imagined eating deer meat. It wasn't as appealing as the steak I have just finished.
Every town we passed through had the distinguishable iron and sickle on the side of the road.
I remember a young man boarding our bus, so young that he still had acne. He carried a rifle along his back, and asked everyone to display their passport. Our tour bus was so humid and hot, and we were asked to endure that, (with the doors and windows closed), until one hour later when he checked everyone out.
We sat there in resolute, going through our personal items to oblige the young man. That was the then Czechoslovakia. If not for the grace of God, and the men that fought for us, this would be the United States.
Upon arriving at our hotel, we were warned by our tour guide NOT to discuss anything political in our rooms. Can you imagine? The rooms might be bugged. It was totally unfathomable to me. Coming from the United States and going into a country were you were not free to discuss politics even in the privacy of one's room!
The hotel had not changed in decor since the 30's. All the furniture smelled of mildew, and was worn and tired, like its' country at that time. I joked that our hotel elevator operator looked like Count Dracula. He had black,slick hair, parted down the middle. the only good thing about the hotel were its' drink prices, less than a dollar for mixed drinks! Amazing. That was a synopsis of forlorn Czechoslovakia circa 1977.
Touring Czechoslovakia was a hidden treasure of art. I marveled at the old city square clock, with revolving animated ornaments, that rotated on the hour, a must see for any tourist. And then there was the priceless crystal, a serving tray could be bought for $10.00 back in the day, and one was free to bring back as much as one could carry!
I never will forget the mixture of fear and wonder that I felt visiting that country. Before it was liberated, before it was the cosmopolitan and trendy city it is today.
So it seems appropriate, to recognize the great sacrifices made for us, by young men that gave up so much - so we can enjoy good food, family and an enviable quality of life.
Somehow a simple thank you isn't enough. The best gifts we receive can never really be given back.
There is no way to make up for the gift of freedom.
During the Viet Nam war, I wrote to service men on the "Sea Tiger." A group of girls in our high school passed out names of men that wanted a pen pal. I felt so good writing them, and to know they looked forward to receiving my letters. I pray that every one of them made it back home safely.
So it is, with great humility, and not nearly enough appreciation, that on this day I whisper; "thank you."