by Paul Mershon
“Freedom is not Free!” These words are etched upon the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C. Indeed, freedom is not free. It has been purchased with the blood of those who gave their all that you and I can enjoy the fruit of their sacrifice.
Some years ago I stood before the Vietnam Memorial upon which are inscribed the names of the 58,209 men and women who died in service to their country. As I stood there I wept.
I visited the Korean War Memorial and was reminded of the 36,516 brave Americans who gave their lives in that conflict.
I then visited the World War II Memorial and was reminded of the 405,399 who perished fighting to keep us free, men who comprised what we know today as “The Greatest Generation.”
Looking down upon the sunken USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor, I was moved to tears considering the 1,177 sailors and Marines entombed there. I silently gave thanks for those who answered the call to arms and paid the ultimate price for freedom.
On Memorial Day in 1982, President Ronald Reagan, speaking at Arlington National Cemetery said of those buried there, “We must honor them, not for their sake alone, but for our own. And if words cannot repay the debt we owe these men, surely with our actions we must strive to keep faith with the vision that led them to battle and to final sacrifice . . . their lives remind us that freedom is not bought cheaply. It has its cost . . .”
In one of the greatest inaugural addresses in the history of the United States of America, President Ronald Reagan said the following towards the end of his speech:
This is the first time in our history that this ceremony has been held, as you’ve been told, on this West Front of the Capitol. Standing here, one faces a magnificent vista, opening up on this city’s special beauty and history. At the end of this open mall are those shrines to the giants on whose shoulders we stand.
Directly in front of me, the monument to a monumental man, George Washington, father of our country. A man of humility who came to greatness reluctantly. He led America out of revolutionary victory into infant nationhood. Off to one side, the stately memorial to Thomas Jefferson. The Declaration of Independence flames with his eloquence. And then, beyond the Reflecting Pool, the dignified columns of the Lincoln Memorial. Whoever would understand in his heart the meaning of America will find it in the life of Abraham Lincoln.
Beyond those monuments to heroism is the Potomac River, and on the far shore the sloping hills of Arlington National Cemetery, with its row upon row of simple white markers bearing crosses or Stars of David. They add up to only a tiny fraction of the price that has been paid for our freedom.
Each one of those markers is a monument to the kind of hero I spoke of earlier. Their lives ended in places called Belleau Wood, The Argonne, Omaha Beach, Salerno, and halfway around the world on Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Pork Chop Hill, the Chosin Reservoir, and in a hundred rice paddies and jungles of a place called Vietnam.
Under one such marker lies a young man, Martin Treptow, who left his job in a small town barbershop in 1917 to go to France with the famed Rainbow Division. There, on the western front, he was killed trying to carry a message between battalions under heavy artillery fire.
We’re told that on his body was found a diary. On the flyleaf under the heading, “My Pledge,” he had written these words: “America must win this war. Therefore I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure, I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost, as if the issue of the whole struggle depended on me alone.”
The crisis we are facing today does not require of us the kind of sacrifice that Martin Treptow and so many thousands of others were called upon to make. It does require, however, our best effort and our willingness to believe in ourselves and to believe in our capacity to perform great deeds, to believe that together with God’s help we can and will resolve the problems which now confront us.
And after all, why shouldn’t we believe that? We are Americans.
The following quote is from an article that was shared with me this morning:
“America has paid the price of freedom in its own blood, both here on our own shores, and abroad throughout the world. From Concord, to Bunker Hill, to Trenton, to Lake Champlain, to Valley Forge, to Cowpens, to Yorktown…to Tripoli…to Ft. Mieg, to Lake Erie, to Horseshoe Bend, to Chippewa and to New Orleans… to The Alamo, San Jacinto, Buena Vista, Palo Alto, Monterrey and the Halls of Montezuma…to Bull Run (twice), Antietam, Fredericksburg, Shiloh, Vicksburg, The Wilderness, Gettysburg, Atlanta and Appomattox…to Manila Bay, Guantanamo Bay, to Santiago and San Juan Hill…to Chateau Thierry and the Argonne Forest…to Pearl Harbor, North Africa, Sicily, Italy, to Normandy, Luxembourg, to islands and atolls throughout the Pacific, Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, to the Philippines…to Seoul, Pusan, Inchon, Chosin, Chipyoongi, Pork Chop Hill and throughout Korea…to Ia Drang, Khe Sahn, Dak To, Hue, Kim Son, Hamburger Hill, “Downtown” Hanoi, An Loc and all across South Vietnam into Cambodia and Laos…to Grenada and Panama…to Kuwait…to Fallujah, the Debecka Pass, Nasiriyah, Haditha, Baghdad, Al Anbar, Mosel, Ramadi and throughout the Sunni Triangle…to Mazari Sharif, to Kabul, to Takur Ghar, to Kandahar, to Tora Bora, to Operation Anaconda and throughout Afghanistan to name but a small few. Americans have shed their blood . . . for freedom . . . Let us never forget it.”
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