NYC has long seemed to me, like the kind of place that not only honors its heroes, but even sort of mythologizes them. So it was no surprise to me that on my last morning in Manhattan, when I took a closer look at a display outside the church by my hotel…I found it to be a tribute to military heroes. It’s also a peaceful form of protest, but it is focused on soldiers who are currently serving and those who have given their lives in service. I’d seen this particular display several times during my walks around the city and was always too busy to stop and take a closer look. Isn’t that the way it always is? But on my last morning I was not rushing, in fact I was sad to be leaving New York that day, and rushing felt disingenuous for the first time. I wanted to savor the city, instead of cramming it together in my memory.So I spent a long time on this street corner. My camera and I. I won’t pretend there wasn’t a tear or two. My younger brother serves in the military – and my feelings about this are mixed. I’m very proud of the impact it has had on him as a man. I’m proud that he serves in a capacity that I cannot. But I’m fearful of where his service might one day take him and the sacrifice that could then be required of myself, his wife and my mother. So yes, as of the day that he graduated from basic training…I became one of those women who cries at almost anything in tribute to soldiers. I’ve also been known to thank soldiers I don’t even know, when I see them in town, or in an airport.
Back to the ribbons – in true NYC fashion (I am assuming), and once your eyes are open to see it – this tribute is bold and bright and demands attention. Worthily so. It is our soldiers who need to be honored. It is on their shoulders that the true and real burden of war is carried. All too frequently we, even I, forget this. Even in a city like New York that seems to properly remember how and when to honor its heroes, heroism can still be glazed over. Soldiers can still be forgotten and even 9/11 can become just a big gaping hole in the ground that people walk by on their way to work.I hope this tribute is still in place the next time I visit New York. I’ll most likely stop again, and give thanks for the sacrifice that my brother and my friends who serve, are making “on my behalf”. I do believe it’s true, that – war is not the answer. But this does not stop wars from being fought every day in every corner of the world by people I know. And (most likely) people you know.