I visited the Veterans Memorial Museum at Branson Missourri this weekend. I looked at the names on a plaque that could be read from across the room of all the service men/women who did not come home from the Gulf war. I found the name of the one acquaintance of mine who did not come home, and I remembered his face, and his voice. Still, this conflict (of which I am a veteran) had the names of its fallen on one poster sized board.|
I looked with interest at the list of names of those who did not return from Vietnam, and took particular interest in Korea (My wife was born in Korea). Then I returned to the room where all the names were listed of the 460,000+ who never returned from WW II. I found those who share my family name - none of them were directly related. Then I found those with my mother's family name, and found the name of my mother's uncle who fell in Iwo Jima. It was overwhelming to me. The names filled three walls of a very large room.
Every name on every wall of every room represented a precious life given in service. For every name there, there was/is a family who mourned. Every name there had a buddy who somehow had to cope with the loss, and press on, not knowing if he/she would be next. And every service man/woman who went received wounds, some fatal, some visible, and some not visible, but all very real.
Those names on those walls, and those of conflicts which came before are the price tag for the freedom we continue to enjoy. When I hear the question asked "Isn't this supposed to be a free country?" (Usually asked in protest for being expected to show responsibility, or pay for the benefits enjoyed) I will again remember the great number of names on those walls, and remember this as much more than just a cliche': "Yes, it is a free country, but the price of that freedom has been very, very high." and I will see each time just how little appreciation this present generation has for that price.
So, I want to say a very large, and heart-felt thank you to the veterans of all of our conflicts, and to those who served in peace time as well. My wife also adds her special thanks to the Veterans of the Korean War saying: "It is called the forgotten war, but I will never forget. My father told me the stories of the American soldiers he fought with, and they will not be forgotten so long as I breathe".
I recognize the price of my freedom, and say again to veterans, and families of veterans, Thank you, so very much. I wish I could convey the depth of meaning I attach to that statement.
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