Monday, November 11, 2013

Freedom Isn't Free

Happy Veteran's Day

Blake and the Flag of the United States of America
Today we had the opportunity to go to the Tahoma National Cemetery for the Annual Veteran's Day program.  I was excited to take my kids to something that would honor the heroes that have fought to protect our country.  I didn't want it to be just another day off school to go to the zoo or watch cartoons.  (Not that those are bad things to do-  even on Veteran's Day.  We wouldn't even have those freedoms and opportunities without our Veteran's who have fought for us.) I was excited when one of my friends mentioned the idea and we headed, with many other people, to the cemetery.

I enjoyed the speakers and the program and was especially touched when one speaker quoted President Clinton from a Veteran's Day at Arlington Cemetery.  He said "Freedom isn't Free."  I felt chills run up my back when I heard those words.  Sitting in a National Cemetery for Veterans, surrounded by those who have served, and the loved ones of those who have served, and even the graves of those who have served, couldn't make a more chilling point.  Our freedom hasn't been free.  It has cost lives, and families, and heartache.

At first I was excited to see how many people were attending the program, until I realized how many millions more people have been benefited by these heroes (namely every single person in the United States of America today) and how few were represented there.  Patriotism seems to be dying.  I think there are many people out there who feel that Freedom is free.  There is a generation of us that believes we are entitled to freedom with little or no thought or action on our own part.  Those of us that take that freedom for granted and abuse it.  That use the right to bare arms to kill people.  Those that use the right to happiness as an excuse to receive benefits without work.  Those who think the American Dream is purely about wealth.  Those that forget what our country is really about.

Throughout the program there was music and singing.  And towards the end the small choir sang "Taps".  Taps is the song you normally hear a bugle playing in a war movie when someone dies.  I did not even know there were words to the song.  (If you don't know what I am talking about- you can check out this youtube video.)  As the women's choir began to sing, what may be one of the saddest songs of all time, two young women next to me began to cry.  When I looked closer I noticed the dog tags around their necks.  They could not have been more than 25 years old. I could not hold back my tears as I saw them comfort each other through the song and then the 21 Gun Salute.  My body shook with tears and emotion as my heart broke for these young women.  They were crying in the way that you could only cry for a loved one that you lost.  It was such a sacred moment as I listened to them weep for heroes that had obviously died for our country.  How could I ever take it for granted again?

At the end of the program, the commentator encouraged us to thank a military veteran today.  He was not as politically correct as I would have liked, because he mentioned husbands and brothers and did not even include women.  In our family, both JT and I have sisters who have or are now serving in the Military whose contribution is just as humbling and important as their male counterparts.  I also thought of how important it is to thank the loved ones of those that serve.  Seeing these women made me realize that the families sacrifice as much as the veteran's themselves.

After the program I was able to talk with the girls for a few minutes about the husbands they had both lost in the military.  One of the women clutched her young toddler daughter as she told me that her husband had just been killed in September. Freedom is not free.

I feel like my life has actually been changed today.  That I may never look at anyone in the military (or those that love them) the same.  I was proud when we got home that Blake wanted to color pictures of the flag.  And Riley even drew a picture of the gun salute.  I plan to make this a tradition, so that my children will have many opportunities to thank and hug those that have sacrificed for them like I did today.

Happy Veteran's Day.

The Flag, a helicopter, Riley's Aunt Megan in the Navy (with her sword), and the Gun Salute.

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