In May of this year, I had a conference to attend in Washington D.C. My wife, Gwen and I have been married now for 39 years so I thought it would be nice to take her along and spend a few days site-seeing prior to my conference. I frequently make the trip to D.C. on business, but I’ve never had the time to stop and look at the history of our great country. Freedom did NOT come free and believe me… it’s not free now.
Since our conference was being held a distance from Memorial Park, we took the subway and soon found our way to Independence Ave. Little did we know that every Junior High School kid in the country was there on a class trip! I also did not realize just how much my life would be impacted within the next few hours of walking and touring the memorials.
As we approached the new “World War II Veterans Memorial” Gwen (my wife) commented on its beauty. But it was some of the visitors that caught my attention. My attention went to a man in wheel chair being escorted by a younger man and woman. The man had on metals that were displayed on his chest along with an ARMY hat. I’m not sure what came over me, but I reached down to shake his hand and told him “Thank you for fighting for our freedom”. As he lifted his arm to shake my hand, I realized his hand was missing. The younger women (daughter) bent down and said “See daddy, you are hero”. Tears swelled up in his eyes. When I looked up, I realized that the young man (son) was in tears. The old man asked me where I was from and I told him “Alabama.” He leaned back and said “Son, he’s from Alabama.” As I looked around, I noticed several others just like him. Some of the others were in wheelchairs, and there were a few others that could walk but only with a cane. I did not realize it at the time, but he was one of the last groups of veterans being bussed to D.C. to visit the memorial. As I made my way around Memorial Park, I tried to shake hands and thank all of them that I saw.
I was just about to graduate 1970 from the University of Alabama ,when I was shipped off for basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. We were on the lottery system and my number was high at 314. The Vietnam War was still in progress and my dad wanted me to join the National Guard because he was told I would be drafted in my county regardless of my lottery number. As we approached the Vietnam Memorial, my mind went back to my childhood days when I played and went to school with three friends whose names that should be on the memorial. It made me question “Why me Lord?” “Why did I not have to go war?” “Why do I have such a wonderful life with a family, yet my friends died young, before they even got a chance at life?” It wasn’t easy finding their names but we stayed until it was accomplished.
I am not usually one that will write about politics or our government, but over the past few years, I have begun to think that something has been lost that we need to find quickly and teach it to all our children. The magic of America did not come cheap. Our founders tried something new and different than the rest of the world. They risked their lives voyaging to a new world, carrying everything they owned. However, they had more than possessions… They had a strong, deep desire to become free. They wanted to be free from the kingdoms and kings that told them how to live and where to worship. They wanted freedom and free markets. They were groups of colony’s that were as different as the birds on earth. However, they had one thing in common, they all wanted freedom! So they banned together to create the greatest country on earth, and to fight for their rights. They were not anti-Christian and they wanted a government for the record that left religion alone, but still played a limited role in protecting… protecting things such as national defense, police, fire departments, and running a judicial system. Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Washington and the others created the Constitution of the United States of America, a Declaration of Freedom! It has not come cheap. There are many soldiers that have paid the price, and are still paying for it today. So, as you celebrate the “Fourth of July” and our freedom… Remember the price!