By Rebecca Holder
The letter began ordinarily enough, “Dear Sirs:
This is in response to your inquiry regarding the events of…”
In the late 1980s my supervisor was contacted by the US government to provide his account of a particular “engagement” he was involved in during his military service. I was given the task of transcribing his reply from the micro-cassette. The tape revealed a long, horrific day where a terrified, confused, and desperate kid was pinned down in mire, made muddy with blood, surrounded by dead and wounded men in his unit, and believing each minute that passed was his last. Multiple pages later, I finished typing his story – physically shaken by what I had heard. Placing the pages on his desk, I looked at other items there – the veterans’ support group newsletter; thank you notes for his contributions to various charities; and the picture of his wife and children.
As Americans, freedom, independence, and democracy are ideals we hold dear as evidenced by our July 4th celebration. We believe that to attain, maintain, and protect freedom, independence, and democracy – whether for ourselves or others – we must be willing to pay the cost of war, not in dollars, but in sacrificing life itself to these ideals. The men and women who throughout America’s history gave their lives for those ideals are forever deeply and humbly honored and appreciated.
Transcribing that letter, I realized in the mundane work-a-day world so many years later, every action my supervisor took, every decision he made, every value he possessed, was shaped and influenced by that day bathed in blood. His obligation and sense of duty to our ideals of freedom, independence, and democracy were not just for the duration of his military service, but filled every day since. For him, the cost of freedom was something he paid daily in the form of memories, life lessons learned, and an effort – conscious or not – to be a person deserving and respectful of that freedom.
This July, remember the service and sacrifice others have made on your behalf. Service and sacrifice comes in all sizes and in different places – and it makes a difference to someone somewhere. Remember that in the darkest times of struggle we often discover the depth of our personnel reserves as well as the strength of unity and the common good. Remember to be respectful, appreciative, and deserving of your freedom, independence, and the democratic process that made it so 238 years ago.