Friday, November 11, 2011

Thankful: Security Forces

I am not accustomed to being seriously evaluated as a possible threat to national security. Sure, I've had the various TSA searches in airports and other such encounters, and they seem alert to the possibility that I might be a hazard, but I've always had the sense that they aren't really expecting me to be a terrorist.

We went to Washington, D.C., in September. I took lots of photos, of course. (My husband is very patient with me...) One day we were walking along on our way to somewhere-or-other when I saw a big fountain thing. The image brought to mind several metaphors and I really wanted a picture of it, so we turned quickly aside, drawing a little closer and moving from the middle of the sidewalk as I pulled out the camera.

What I hadn't noticed until that moment was the nearby man in uniform who saw my change in direction and turned efficiently to face me. I don't remember much about him, except his uniform, rectangular build, and very large gun. He did not appear agitated or nervous like someone anticipating attack, just deliberative in evaluating a potential threat.

I paused, too, to assess the situation. I didn't see any need to stop what I was doing; I was simply a tourist using a camera appropriately in a public place. At the same time, I was pretty intentional about not making any quick or sudden movements, and about looking quite benign. I did not want to create unnecessary uncertainty for this already-alert man.

This uniformed man with the serious-looking gun has come to mind a few times since our trip. He was clearly operating in a security role, and I imagine it being the kind of role which is boring and forgettable on the best of days, exciting and memorable on the bad ones. And I keep going back to the fact that he seemed to seriously consider me as a possible threat. He is trained and practiced at seeing the potential for harm in even benign, ordinary people. Being so thoroughly on guard can be hazardously stressful.

On Veterans Day, we honor those who "have made the ultimate sacrifice" -- that is, who have died in service to our country. On this day, I also honor the many more who have willingly entered training and daily endeavors to seek out threats -- and who have been changed in the process.

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