The high cost of freedom
By Bill Shepard
By the time you read this, a week of celebrating will be over.
You might have been one of the millions who took to the highways and traveled to the mountains or beaches or enjoyed picnics in your own back yards. The Fourth of July is among our most celebrated occasions.
Many among those celebrating could not tell you why or the significance of the day. This is a shame! Here it is!
It was on the Fourth of July 1776 that the document declaring this nation’s freedom from British rule was signed. The war was over!
The 13 American colonies had fought for and won the freedom that has lasted until this day. The cost of that freedom was high. It did not come cheap, and it continues to be among our most costly possessions! We should never forget that!
Since 1776, wars have been fought for protection of our freedom and all wars are fought with high cost and the bill is never paid in full, nor can it be. The bullets stop flying, the bombs stop falling, the ships anchor and the planes stop flying, but the pains of war go on hurting! We must never forget that! To do that would be a risk to the freedoms we all enjoy.
Perhaps it is true that no persons have freedoms as we do in America. Is that why that, even as I write, there are thousands camping outside of our borders and waiting for a chance to come inside the land of the free?
It might be safe to say that there is no place on Earth where the people are as free as those living in America! This freedom that we enjoy so much, and so often take for granted, did not come cheaply, nor has it been kept at a cheap price. It might be good that we take the time and be reminded of the high cost of our freedom.
When I was a child I recall listening to old soldiers who fought in World War I! They would gather at a place near where I lived and talk of their experiences in that war. They would talk of the fighting in the trenches and the hunger and pain they endured. They also talked of their efforts to get help from their government after the war ended, and the days spent camping on the lawn of the White House, but help was slow in coming, indeed if ever!
That was said to be the end of all wars. Treaties were made and the world set about clearing the destruction and ugliness left behind. History of that time speaks of the high cost paid.
People are quick to forget! Often that turns out to be costly. I have heard it said that “those who forget the lessons that are taught have to repeat them”! That is often the spoken truth.
The world was still struggling to clear away the ravages of World War I when rumors of another war were heard! At first it was just a neighborly conflict that would heal itself, but that did not happen.
In little more than a score of years, the world was at war again. Many could tell of the cost of that war and even show the scars they wore. They could tell of the sacrifices and pain endured, days and nights of wondering as to their future.
This writer can remember the beginning and end of that long and costly conflict!
I recall the day when my brother went away to serve in the Navy and the empty feeling felt in the house. The year was 1938. Then came another day in 1941 when another brother answered the call to serve and enlisted in the Army. I watched a mother and a dad deal with the pain of loneliness, fears and questioning as the war grew more dangerous.
I watched other young men go away to do service in the Army, Navy and Marine Corps – some who I had attended school with, played ball with, and swam and fished in Swift Creek with. They answered the call to defend the freedom they enjoyed in America. All paid a hard price – some more than others.
The faces of three of those young men stare at me from the frame on my desk. There are four faces in that picture; this writer is one of them. He recalls that day in early February 1942 that the four left to do service in the defense of freedom. They each did their part, then returned home.
Three of those four have moved on to that other world, the world that will never experience the pain of war. The fourth is awaiting his summons to follow.
The war ended. The enemies that had threatened America’s freedom had been defeated. Yes, the cost continued and still continues. Will men ever learn to settle their differences in a more sensible way than by going to war?
This writer has lived through World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, Iraq and conflicts and skirmishes in between.
I have seen the hurts and the questioning in the eyes of little children who were wondering why their dad never came home, the brokenness and loneliness of young women who received notice that their husbands would not be returning.
The Bible says, “Ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars. . . . The end is not yet.” (Matthew 24:6.) So it is. The cost of freedom goes on. And the price gets higher.