Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sergeant Baxter’s Big Day

We took the kids to the Embassy this weekend to take part in a ceremony they likely wouldn’t see in the States.

Sergeant Baxter, one of the Marines responsible for guarding the Embassy, was getting promoted to Staff Sergeant, which is a very big deal for an enlisted Marine. Two higher-ups flew in from Bangkok to promote him, and all of the Marines turned out.

It was a short ceremony, very simple. All of the kids stood quietly and watched as the Marines stood in formation and Sergeant Baxter became a Staff Sergeant. After the ceremony, the kids all shook his hand and congratulated him. Then they played basketball and soccer in the Embassy gym while the adults stood in line to congratulate the new Staff Sergeant.

Sometimes, at events such as this, you feel the weight of what it means to be an American. America is so young still, in comparison with the other countries in which we’ve lived and served. But what we have, well – it’s amazing. It’s easy to take it all for granted, back home in the States, where we can say what we want, worship where we want, do what we want to do, without undue interference from the government. It’s easy to forget that these freedoms were won for us at great cost. It’s easy to forget that many other countries around the world don’t guarantee such rights to their citizens. But there, in the company of diplomats and Marines, I remembered. Because every one of the people in that gym has devoted his life to protecting and defending our country, often at great personal cost.

Folks back home, hang on to this knowledge. Lots of us – myself included - complain about certain aspects of our government. But the government is made up of people. And from what I can tell, from the people I saw gathered in that Embassy gymnasium in Beijing, we’re in good hands.

There we were: a whole group of patriotic Americans, all choosing to live in China, each serving America as best he can, gathered together despite differences in politics, religion and education, to celebrate the promotion of one hard-working Marine.

Congratulations, Staff Sergeant Baxter.

(And for those of you who know us in real life: Sunday was the ten-year anniversary of the day Bart and the Marines had to take some very decisive action against an Embassy intruder at another post. We learned first-hand that day that people really do put their lives on the line for their government every day overseas.)


globalgal said... [Reply]

This post reminded me of the day, over 15 years ago, when I accompanied my mother to the US Embassy in Kuwait so that she could be sworn in to the US Army Nurse Corps (Reserve) by a Lt. Col. on duty there. Standing inside the embassy walls, the same walls that were very nearly under siege only two years prior during the Iraqi invasion, while my mother joined the Army - exciting but weird, and a perspective I appreciate to this day!

Jen said... [Reply]

What a neat experience for everyone, and I am sure kids will remember for a long time to come!

MaryjoO said... [Reply]

What a wonderful post and what memories it brought back. You all went through so much during that "incident" assignment, but never wavered. And Shay -- how I enjoyed his visit to my office :) You and your family are among the "best" that we send overseas.

Erin G said... [Reply]

hey donna - I'm not sure if you'll be able to access this article but I thought it was interesting and worth sharing, it made me think of your family in Beijing. (From Time Magazine's top stories.)


Connie said... [Reply]

What brought tears to my eyes here - is that you took the time to share this day with Staff Sergeant Baxter. I was in the Army for over 9 years and i don't think I ever had my family attend a single promotion or awards ceremony - not that they wouldn't, it simply wasn't possible. These are things we work hard for, and take great pride in accomplishing, and yet... the celebration can be a lonely affair. I seemed to usually time it to where I'd be promoted as soon as I arrived to a new unit as well, so I wouldn't even have my buddies with me. I'm not trying to gain any pity(!), as I think my experience might actually be fairly typical. Military life is mobile. I just wanted to say, from the perspective of one who served, that your being there to help celebrate and recognize this Marine's promotion was a good, good thing. Thank you! And Staff Sergeant Baxter, thank you for your service!!

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