They Fought for Us, They Died for Us

This morning I listened as Mike Gallagher interviewed an Iraq War veteran, David Bellavia from Vets for Freedom.  His story brought a tear to my eye.  He spoke of how the mission of Operation Iraqi Freedom has finally been accomplished, but no one seem to have cared one way or the other; however, it mattered to him and he wants us to remember the fallen soldiers and not take for granted our freedoms, especially our right to vote, a right he and his fellow warriors, both dead and alive, helped fought for the Iraqi people.  He witnessed a moment that forever changed his life at the polling place on Iraq’s very first Election Day in 2005 when gunfire broke out and he was there to protect the Iraqis.  He writes in remembrance of the moment:

A cry from behind causes me to turn. Lying in the road is a young Iraqi woman. I run over to help. She’s caught a round just below her temple. Her stunning beauty has been ruined forever.She cries, “Paper! Paper” over and over until the ambulance arrives to take her away. An old lady emerges from the schoolhouse-turned voting site, sheets of blue paper in hand. She gives one to the wounded girl, who clutches it to her like a prized possession even as the ambulance carries her away.

The ballot was her voice. All she wanted was a chance to exercise it, just once, before she died.

The old woman returns to the school house, but drops another ballot along the way. It drifts in a gentle breeze across the bloodstained asphalt. I stoop down and pick it up. It is all in Arabic, and I have no idea what each set of candidates advocate. That’s not my place, and it doesn’t really matter. I helped make this day happen. This ballot represents the reason why we’re here, why my friends had to die.

Carefully, I fold the ballot up and put it in my pocket. Even though I was 29 at the time , I’d only voted once.

I had taken something so precious for granted for far too long.

Now, in the safety of my own house, thousands of miles from danger and violence, this little blue paper, still with dark speckles of that woman’s blood, sits tucked away in this scrapbook.

That young woman wanted nothing else than the chance to explore her newfound freedom. She didn’t beg for help, or plead for her life. Voting would become her final act. In that moment, she matched our own sacrifices.

Bellavia’s heart aches for the blood that has been shed in the quest for people’s freedoms, but despite all the danger and loss lives, the mission mattered.  And soldiers cannot die in vain for their sacrifices if we didn’t finish the mission and support them.  We, as people, with freedom and rights, should never take for granted something as simple as the right to vote.  And we should always remember that long ago, people have fought and died for our voices to be heard.

Read Bellavia’s great op-ed here: Our Mission is Finally Accomplished… Anyone Care?

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