Monday, February 1, 2010

Freedom to Be at Ease, Courtesy of Steven Towery

It's a simple tribute left on a popular social networking site: "Steven Towery, PVT, 82nd Airborn, US Army, injured, lost his left foot to a land mine in Afghanistan...." The message offers few details of the event, so the reader must surmise that Private Towery was fulfilling his duties to seek out militants and terrorists, or perhaps to offer aid as the Afghan people seek to rebuild their war-torn country.

As I considered Private Towery's plight, I discovered that Afghanistan has been described in the media as the "most heavily mined country in the world." Estimates have placed the number of these deadly devices still lurking under the surface of this country's rugged landscape at anywhere from 400,000 to tens of millions. It was in this unforgiving maze of mines and mountains that on December 26, 2009, Private Steven Towery took a single, errant step that will change his body and his life forever.

December 26 was, of course, the day after Christmas -- the Saturday of a three-day weekend for most Americans. At ease, we were happily recuperating from a variety of indulgences. Immeasurable amounts of leftover holiday ham and pumpkin roll met with final standing, either digesting in someone's contented belly or scraped away into the trash. All the mounds of ripped and wadded wrapping paper had been cleared away. And, our children were at ease, removed from the previous day's frenetic feasting and gift-giving, now entertained by millions of blinking, beeping electronic toys. In complete contrast, Steven Towery was surely not at ease as he walked a path devoid of Christmas leftovers or wrapping paper. Instead, the road he traveled was filled with danger and treachery. Whatever the assignment, his sacrifice was one of countless similar sacrifices that ultimately enable each of us to be at ease in our surroundings.

So, thank you, Steven Towery -- because the next mile I run, I'll be at ease in my shoes. Meanwhile, I'll hope for the speedy realization of the day when you once again feel at ease in yours.