May 29, 2011

Freedom is not free…


Today in America we observe Memorial Day (a day to remember those who have died defending our country and freedoms). I know I have some international readers, so this may not interest you, if not, you can just skip this post. But if you are interested in my thoughts this Memorial Day, and my reflections on my family's sacrifice for freedom, please click:


Somewhere in these books of those from Ohio who paid the highest price for freedom is the name of a young man to whom I am linked. A young man I have never met, but I feel a special tie to him amongst all who bought my freedom. You see, he was engaged to a member of my extended family. I have always loved my country and its defenders, but until recently it was a rather nebulous idea, not a concrete personal cost. My connection to the cost of freedom finally clicked last year, as I was on a plane flying to visit family over the July 4th holiday. As I looked over the beautiful countryside of my nation, I was listening to patriotic songs on my MP3 player. One of them was “Freedom’s Never Free” recorded by Phillips, Craig & Dean. It starts out:

Standing on a hillside

Where the river meets the sea

White crosses without number

Line the fields of peace

And each one a silent witness

Staring back at me

Every cross a story

Of another place in time

Where young men thought it worthy

To give their life for mine

And for the sake of honor

Left their dreams behind

And for the price they paid

I'm forever in their debt

Their memory will not die

'Cause I will not forget

It clicked, a young man, probably younger than me by years who had requested and promised to become part of our family had given his life for my freedom. Part of the dreams he left behind was a life with a family member who is very dear to me. During that trip I was able to watch fireworks and celebrate my country – not to mention go to church with my family, take part in a protest, speak my opinion freely – because of the price he had paid. And you know, by extension the price they had paid. In the part of the song I quoted above, it says, “gave his life for mine.” I know the author probably meant this figuratively, but in my case I view it as more literal. I have serious, and potentially deadly, medical condition that I had successful surgery for and am no longer under a doctor’s care for. But that surgery was only discovered in my lifetime. Since I believe that science and medicine advance best in freedom, I’m not sure that without our country’s freedom the cure would have been found in time for me. On a more day to day basis I’m able to be active in my church which is a big part of my life without fear of reprisal or death. I can vote, serve as a member of a jury, etc. These are things which I have always been thankful for, but now, I feel that by exercising these rights I’m in a way also fulfilling a solemn responsibility that young man (and all the others like him) placed on me. If these freedoms was worth his life, should they not be an important part of mine?

Not only do I feel more greatly my responsibility to exercise my rights/privileges/duties as a citizen of the United States of America, but the need to pass on this freedom to the next generation. It seems a waste, if his sacrifice only safeguarded our freedom for one generations. We who were given this gift of freedom at such a price must be willing to pay the same cost to pass it on. While I may not be in a position to enlist, I must do whatever I can to support freedom to the next generation, that is really the only way in which one generation can pay its debt to the earlier ones for the freedom we have enjoyed.

I’m thankful not only to that young man, but as I’ve hinted at earlier those who let him go to protect freedom. In a way, their sacrifice may have been greater, personally I’d rather go home to heaven than lose someone I loved. So, if one of those who knew that young man (or someone else who likewise bought freedom for me) should read this, please know I am neither unaware nor ungrateful for the price you paid, and I’d like to take this chance to say “Thank you so very much”.

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