The establishment of America, its maintenance, safety, opportunities, and the protection of our citizens is not a product of chance or indifference. Our country comes at a price that blessedly heroes have always paid. For America, Memorial Day is the currency which provides freedom.
The limitless opportunities Americans enjoy in life to achieve whatever they have the courage to attempt and the determination and fortitude to spend themselves in fully to accomplish, has been paid for with the blood and spirit of men and women who traded their own life to provide opportunity to others.
The price is every man and woman who served during the World War II. It is men who fought at places named Pearl Harbor, Salerno, Omaha Beach, the Ardennes Forrest, Saipan and Iwo Jima. The price is the 407,316 U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine and Coast Guardsmen who fought and died in Europe, the Pacific and in Africa for the freedom of the entire world.
The price is the 36,914 service members who would never return home from the frozen mud of Korea. It is their toil and ultimate sacrifice at Heartbreak Ridge or the Chosin Reservoir which has paid for all we hold dear.
The price of America is the last breath of 58,178 service members who died in combat, while captured, or while missing as part of the Vietnam War, as well as those who made it home only to face death again because of a poison their bodies carried home with them.
The cost is measured by service members who put their country first and themselves second while serving in the Dominican Republic, Iran, El Salvador, Beirut, Grenada, Panama, the Persian Gulf and hundreds of other battlefields most will never know existed.
It is the Delta Operators, Army Rangers, and Blackhawk pilots who gave it all in the dusty sands of Somalia. It is all who left us too soon in Bosnia and Kosovo, on the USS Cole, and all who defended against threats we may have never known existed.
The cost is the near 7,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Coast Guardsman who defended this country with the last beat of their hearts in Iraq and in Afghanistan.
The cost is every service member who has been snatched from us by an RPG, grenade, mortar, or bomb. It is those taken by the bullet of a sniper or the cowardice of a land mine or IED. The cost is every aviator shot down flying beyond the lines of the enemy, and every sailor buried in metal cascades beneath the waters of the Pacific.
The cost is every drop of blood, every tear, every letter delivered by a best friend to a comrade’s next of kin, and every folded flag handed to a family whose photo had been carried in a breast pocket of their hero. It is every son and daughter who grows up without their protector, and every spouse who loses their soulmate. It is every slow and solemn hum of “Taos” being played and the startling crack of a 21 gun salute.
The price paid for America has been the final and most far-reaching act of men and women who can never be replaced or repaid, who can only be honored and exemplified by those who live on with their memory.
This column first appeared on Sunshine State News.