2020 | Week of November 9 | Radio Transcript #1385
Several years ago, I was in Washington, D.C. on business. As I always try to do on such trips, I squeezed in some time to visit places I have either never been to or are very important to me. This time, I had someone with me who had never been to any of the war memorials. So that became a focus for the brief time we had.
It was a bright, sunny Saturday in early September. We were exploring the World War II memorial, fighting back tears as we recalled that both of our fathers had been in that war. We watched as families with young children came and examined the stars on the wall, the various pillars for each state represented in the war, and some of the plaques with wonderful information about little-known aspects of this war and those who fought in it.
As we began to leave the memorial, I noticed many active-duty military were beginning to show up, from all the branches. They were lining up on both sides of a main sidewalk leading directly into the memorial. I looked up the sidewalk and realized what we about to witness. A group from an Honor Flight—a tour of honor–had just arrived.
Down the sidewalk they came, dozens of them. Some in wheelchairs pushed by loved ones, some using walkers, many using canes, some leaning on the arms of a family member or friend, only a few walking unassisted. The World War II veterans were coming to see their memorial.
The active military receiving them stood tall and straight, saluting them as they came down the sidewalk and into the memorial. It was an emotional experience to say the least. We were standing at the end of the line with a few other tourists. As these veterans, both men and women, passed by me, I shook hands with as many of them as I could or touched them on the shoulder and told them how thankful I was for their service, for their sacrifice. Some had tears in their eyes; some responded; some did not. Most were overwhelmed by the experience.
I thought a long time about those veterans. I wondered what their lives had been like when they returned from the Pacific or European theaters. I know what my dad’s life was like. I remember my mother telling me to never surprise my dad at night when he was asleep. I remember her telling me that dad had frequent pain in his legs from shrapnel wounds and that he had constant ringing in his ears as a result of the war.
My mom told me all these things because my dad never talked about the war, ever—not until the late 1980s, and then it was just one time that he said anything about it. His explanation was that the war was brutal and ugly and hard for him to even think about. The things he saw as a 19-year-old were simply too garish to try to remember and talk about. I wondered if his experience was typical of those men and women I was thanking or if they had had a better war experience. Regardless of their lives after the war, they had all paid a price. And now they were coming to see the memorial, the long over-due memorial, erected in their honor.
Watching these World War II vets, now gray-haired and many very feeble, reminded me that the price that was paid in that war is the same price that has been paid in every war before and since. When people say freedom is never free, that’s not just a nice quotation. It’s the truth. Freedom is always being paid for by someone—and frequently the price has been paid by members of our military.
Veterans Day, November 11, should be a day held in high esteem by Americans. We should go out of our way to thank a vet—and they are not hard to find these days. Many of our vets are now not old; they are young men and women who, unlike the World War II, Korean, and Vietnam vets, have voluntarily enlisted in our nation’s military, voluntarily said “I will pay the price for your freedom.” The ones we celebrate and remember on Veterans’ Day came home; many others paid the supreme sacrifice and returned home in a flag-drapped coffin.
We are still in the throes of a contentious election. Many Americans are watching with some trepidation as this all continues to play out with serious allegations of election fraud in many places. To many, our freedom seems a bit uncertain at this point, I’m sure. But at least we still have freedom and even while we watch the ongoing election drama, we are reminded the price for our freedom remains high—very high—and it will always require a strong military, filled with strong men and women who will one day be veterans whom we will honor for the price they paid.
May God bless our veterans and may God bless America.
This is Julaine Appling for Wisconsin Family Council reminding you the Prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”