America has a deep place in my heart. When I think of America, I feel like joining Patrick Henry in exclaiming, "Give me liberty, or give me death!" Ahh... America, one of my greatest loves.
One pivotal moment in my life came from, in fact, a movie. I don't remember when I first saw it, but at some point in my teenage years I watched "Saving Private Ryan." I remember hearing that it was the most realistic movie ever made (or at least the beach landing scene was), so I was intrigued. There were a couple of sequences and scenes that had a profound impact for me.
I don't think anyone who has seen the movie can forget the beach landing sequence at the beginning of the movie. It was just... sad. Some men walking around with limbs blown off. Other men with their guts hanging out, screaming for their mothers. Men being shot. Men being blown up. Men fighting for their lives. I have deep, somber feelings just thinking about it.
Side note: I remember watching it with someone who was laughing during parts of the beach landing scene -- particularly when a bullet is deflected off a man's helmet, he takes his helmet off in shock, then he's shot in the head. How incredibly disrespectful and pathetic. Sometimes, movies are made to accurately tell the story (even if Hollywood still adds a little "Hollywood" to it). Laughing in movies like "Saving Private Ryan" or "Black Hawk Down" or "Lone Survivor" when men are being killed and maimed is completely disrespectful to the men who actually lived it (and to their families and widows). Have a little respect.
Later in the movie, Captain Miller (Tom Hanks' character) is talking to a couple members of his squad. He tells them that, back home, he is a high school teacher. He also tells them of his hope to return home to his wife.
I remember watching this scene for the first time and thinking about his wife and all of the other wives and mothers of men who would not return home. How were their lives affected? What were their feelings when their home was approached by a pair of servicemen? What was it like to pull down the blue star flag to replace it with a gold star flag?
This impacted me because it made it real. WWII veterans were no longer old patriotic guys with hats who served in a war a long time ago. They were men who left their homes to serve their country. They were husbands, brothers, sons, uncles. They were schoolteachers and office workers and car mechanics. They weren't superheroes, and yet, they were. They were Americans and they were, in fact, the Greatest Generation.
After watching "Saving Private Ryan," I kept having the similar thoughts over and over again:
"If they went through all of that and they were just normal people serving their country, then I have to do SOMETHING."
"I can't let them go through that without doing something to honor them."
"Their lives cannot be lost in vain."
For me, I simply could not ignore what they had done and go on living my life as an American who has done nothing to preserve the freedoms we enjoy. So "Saving Private Ryan" had a great impact on my life and my decision to enlist in the military. I could go into details about all of the reasons I decided to enlist, but I'll save that for another post, another time.