Being thankful for everyday life

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. John Paradis
  • 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Today, a Sunday morning, I went for a long run through my neighborhood in Litchfield Park, walked into my home and took a long hot shower with clean water. I just read the Sunday newspaper and an editorial page where differing views were offered - all while enjoying a hot cup of home-brewed coffee and some toast made with fresh bread and jam.

After about an hour or so of time to myself (how rare!), spent reading a book, I'll drive, without worry of a roadside bomb or improvised explosive device, around the corner and go to a store with my wife and kids and go Christmas shopping. After going out for Sunday brunch perhaps, I'll come home and play chess with my son or go to the park behind our house and toss the football around (we've got a lot of catching up to do since I've been gone).

Later in the afternoon, I think I'll go for a walk with my daughter and talk about how it is to be a 6th grader in the year 2006. By dusk, I'll go out on our back porch and watch the beautiful Arizona sunset over the White Tank Mountains with my spouse - a perfect end to a perfect day, made especially so because I know I will be sleeping in my own bed that night and will wake up to my wife beside me in the morning.

Yet, like many nights recently, I won't sleep peacefully. Like other nights, I will wake up, often, and think of those who won't be in their own beds, at their homes, with their families, living life in our great country. I will think of Sgt. 1st Class Meredith Howard, the 52-year-old civil affairs Army Reservist from Texas who, along with another fellow Soldier, died in Kabul, Afghanistan, in September, just 500 yards from our compound, at the hands of a suicide bomber. I will think of her family and her children who no longer have a mother. I will think of her community who lost in Meredith, a firefighter and community volunteer.

Simple pleasures in life can never, ever be taken for granted. As an American, I enjoy the freedom I have and the choices I can make with my precious, precious spare time because of brave men and women like Sergeant 1st Class Howard who volunteered to serve in harm's way in order to protect our way of life.

I have served in Bosnia, Albania, Iraq and now Afghanistan. In each of those places, I've encountered extremists and others who care nothing about human life, who employ humans as weapon systems and who are intimidated by what freedom represents because it challenges their hegemony. In each of those places, simple pleasures are not simple. Land mines, ambushes, murderers and thieves, corruption and bribery are a way of life. Life is hard; everyone sacrifices; few are removed from everyday terror.

Tonight, I will think of Sergeant 1st Class Howard, and Maj. Troy "Trojan" Gilbert, our Luke comrade and friend, killed in action Nov. 27, in Iraq, and the more than 2,500 other Americans who were killed in action serving for freedom's cause in our nation's war against terror. I will pray that every American will also think of them, too, and that maybe others too will have some restless nights thinking of them. And, I pray that no American will ever spend a day and not be grateful for simple pleasures - life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Tomorrow, before I head to work, I will look at our nation's flag as it hangs from our front porch and I will think, as I do every day that I stare at the flag, of the men and women who have died wearing our nation's uniform.

I cherish the freedom we have as a nation. I cherish the choices I have in my life and the simple pleasures I am afforded. I thank the American fighting man and woman for giving me everything I cherish, and the safety and comfort of my home and community. I thank two Texans -- Trojan and Meredith Howard.

(Lt. Col. Paradis was deputy director of public affairs for Combined-Forces Command Afghanistan from April to October 2006.)