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Guest Post: The High Cost of Freedom – Patriotism and Memorial Day

May 27th, 2007 by Halli

From Richard Larsen

Army Sgt. Blake Stephens brought home to Pocatello the profound significance of Memorial Day this year.

A young man with a bright future ahead of him and a loving and supportive family behind him, voluntarily and willingly signed up, as millions have done before him, to put his life on the line in defense of liberty and the security of America.

While he may not have known at the time he enlisted that he would indeed pay for that privilege with his life, he obviously knew at the time the potential consequences of his commitment. And for that, we owe him and the millions who have preceded him the grateful acknowledgment of an appreciative nation for their sacrifice.

I have been blessed to know many veterans throughout my life; some who simply had the wrong number and were conscripted, but many who willingly and voluntarily joined the military not just for a quality education and decent benefits, but more out of a sense of duty, and a love for everything good that America stands for.

Blake was part of a growing number of recruits in these latter years who were educated, bright and full of life; who were filled with optimism about their future and the future of America. He was part of a growing number of young and not so young people who had everything going for them before joining the military, and yet felt the compelling yearning to make a difference in a fight against radicals who target our very way of life.

To some among us, the fallen represent lives wasted, while to most of us, the fallen represent the high cost of liberty, especially in conflicts critical to our national security and way of life as this one is.

Some of us may never totally understand the mentality and the sense of loyalty and respect that drives people like Sgt. Stephens to be willing to pay for our liberties with their lives.

Whether we all understand it or not, gratitude and our mutual respect should be compulsory. I will never understand those who hold our military personnel in contempt, those who choose to focus on the few aberrations on the battlefield or the prison camps, rather than the millions of acts of mercy, sensitivity and sacrifice which typify our gallant men and women in uniform. This generation who joins willingly knows full well their possible destiny, yet they are willing to make that investment for our current and future liberty.

I will be eternally grateful for goodly parents who inculcated in me from my earliest days an appreciation for this great country and an unwavering awe for those who have and continue to sacrifice their all for us to enjoy the freedoms that are ours.

Sen. Larry Craig very properly reminded us in his guest column a week ago of our responsibility within the confines of our homes to nurture our children with the appropriate respect for those who serve and love of country for the incomparable ideals upon which America is founded. Trent and Kathy Stephens obviously instilled in their son Blake such a love of country, and a commitment to the American ideal.

For some inexplicable reason, there are some among us who think it’s chic to trivialize and minimize the greatness of America; who think patriotism and loyalty to America are characteristics of oversimplified minds living in a state of denial of our flaws. Quite the contrary, the overwhelming majority of Americans recognize in America an unprecedented historical and ideological uniqueness; a singularity that magnifies exponentially the willingness of those in uniform to sacrifice even their very lives in defense of our ideals.

Dr. Benjamin Rush, one of our Founding Fathers, said “Patriotism is as much a virtue as justice, and is as necessary for the support of societies as natural affection is for the support of families.” As a nation convinced of the imperative to love and nurture our children, we should hold as tenaciously the commitment to patriotism for our country, which is simply a love of, and a loyalty to, our country, and a professed willingness to defend her against enemies or detractors.

For those of us who love this country, when we sing the poignant anthem, “Oh Beautiful for Spacious Skies,” a natural lump grows in our throats. We fight back the tears of gratitude and respect for those who have granted us the liberties and freedoms we enjoy even when we sing the line, “God mend thine every flaw.” Certainly this great country has its share of challenges and inequities to mend, but amenable and equitable solutions rarely are arrived at through verbal conflagration and demeaning epithets. There is nothing in that beautiful hymn to the greatness of America that makes reference to political parties, policy differences, or political candidates. It is, however, replete with gratitude and appreciation for our roots of liberty, and recognition of the uniqueness of the principles upon which this country was founded. These are sentiments that should be universally shared by all Americans.

President Ronald Reagan declared, “Let us make a vow to our dead. Let us show them by our actions that we understand what they died for. Let our actions say to them… ‘I will not fail thee nor forsake thee.’ Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their valor, and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.” To which I can only add, “Amen.”

Richard Larsen of Pocatello is president of the brokerage firm Larsen Financial. He graduated from Idaho State University with degrees in political science and history.

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