“Find the cost of freedom, buried in the ground.”
– Stephen Stills
When Memorial Day comes around each year, we are reminded of the sacrifices made by the many who have served for the United States in our more than 230 years of existence.
Ceremonies will be conducted around marble monuments. Speeches will be made about those that fought in generations past. It is a day of solemn remembrance.
It also is a good day to consider the present and think about the future.
While we are honoring all the U.S. service members who have perished fighting in places such as Gettysburg, Normandy, Khe Sanh and Fallujah, let’s not forget those who are still dying in places such as Afghanistan and all those who are still in harm’s way around the world.
According to the Associated Press, at least 2,181 members of the U.S. military have died in Afghanistan since 2001. We can expect more men and women to give their lives until that war is brought to an end.
Men will continue to fall, like Command Sgt. Major Martin Barreras who was died at an Army hospital May 13 from wounds her received in Afghanistan’s Herat Province this month. Barreras was 49, and had served in combat actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, including the famous mission in 2003 that rescued a young Army supply clerk named Jessica Lynch. He had served his country since 1983, first as a Marine, before enlisting in the Army to become a Ranger.
More women will die, like Army Spc. Hilda Clayton, a graduate of Westside High School and military photographer, who was killed July 2 while she was photographing an Afghan National Army training exercise. An accidental mortar explosion took her life and the lives of three others. She was only 22.
Yes, both Barreras and Clayton willingly swore an oath and went to serve where they were asked. They knew the risks involved. But we must never take their sacrifices lightly. Who among us can say that we have earned or deserved what they were so willing to give?
What I am trying to say is that the sacrifice is still being made each and every day that men and women put on our country’s uniform. They have all sworn to “defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” with their lives.
It is an oath that we should all keep inside us as we enjoy the comforts of freedom paid for in blood.