On Second Thought: Freedom isn’t free

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 20, 2024

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By Marie Harrison

For the Clemmons Courier

ANNAPOLIS — Last week, my son attended the U.S. Naval Academy’s Summer Seminar Program in Annapolis and while he was slaving away in sea trials and endless drills and PT, my husband and I used the opportunity to take our daughters to Washington, D.C., to visit some of the museums and monuments. There is so much to see and do in and around D.C. and I’m sure that we could have stayed several more weeks and still not seen or done everything, but for the 5 days we had available, we tried our hardest to pack in as much history and culture as we could. We walked more than 20,000 steps some days as we marched from the Smithsonian to the Lincoln Memorial to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and a host of places in between. And while we saw so many awe-inspiring pieces of art, took in so much science and natural history, I think the part of the trip that I will never forget came when I sat on a bench with one of my daughters, just waiting for my husband to bring the car and pick us up.

On one particular day, it was warm. Very warm. With temperatures in the upper 80s, and a full day of walking under our belts, by the time we saw the WWII memorial, we were done. One of my daughters rides in a wheelchair when we are covering long distances, and she wisely chose to use her wheelchair on this trip. As we finished walking around the giant memorial that marks the battles of both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and honors the many men and women who served our country so valiantly in the war, we decided to call it a day. Seeing the look of exhaustion on everyone’s faces, my husband offered to walk the mile or so back to our car and come pick us up. One daughter chose to walk back with my husband, while I sat with another daughter on a bench, just outside the memorial and waited for the car. As we sat on a bench under the cover of shade from a large magnolia tree, my daughter and I noticed some college-age kids begin to gather around. We heard introductions being made and noticed that these college kids were dressed quite formally in suits and dresses, quite fancy for a day of just touring the monuments. And soon, an older gentleman joined them and began asking for names and which district they were from. It quickly became apparent that this gentleman was a United States representative, and these college kids were actually interns, not tourists, working in his office for the summer. And then, we heard it. The sounds of police sirens getting closer. And as the sound grew in intensity, we saw the flashing blue and red lights as an officer on a motorcycle, with sirens blaring and lights flashing, pulled into the loading zone directly in front of us. And right behind the officer? Two very large tour buses and another officer pulling up the rear for this caravan, what in the world was going on?  

And then the buses began unloading with streams of veterans from WWII, along with their escorts, all taking part in the Honor Flight to come and see the memorial built in their honor. Out of nowhere, a school group appeared with teachers and students lining the walkway to the memorial, posters and pom poms in hand, cheering loudly for each and every veteran as they walked along the tree lined path to the memorial. Students loudly shouted, “thank you,” teachers yelled out, “you are heroes,” the U.S. Representative stood at the beginning of the line and shook each and every veteran’s hand, and as I watched this scene unfold, tears flowed down my cheeks. To see the pure enthusiasm and joy and thankfulness being poured out on these veterans was awe inspiring. And when I looked at the faces of these veterans — many who were in their late 80s, one who was even 102 — for the first time, seeing the giant memorial built to remember and honor their sacrifice, many of these veterans were also wiping away tears. As a mother to a son whose greatest desire is to go and serve his country, I couldn’t have been prouder to be an American as I watched this scene unfold. What a gift this Honor Flight was for all of these veterans, what a gift this school group of cheering teachers and students was, and what a gift each of these veterans gave to all of us who call ourselves Americans.

Freedom isn’t free. These veterans paid a price so that we could enjoy the freedoms we hold so dear. And as I thought about these brave men and women, I couldn’t help but be thankful for their Christ-like sacrifice. Much like Christ, who took our place on the cross and endured pain and suffering so that each of us who put our trust in Him could have eternal life and freedom from our sins, these brave veterans did the same. They endured pain and hardships during war, gave up their own comforts, their own desires, all to serve and provide for our freedom. And that kind of sacrifice should be honored, it should be remembered. Freedom comes at a cost that these brave veterans know all too well. So as you move throughout your day today, free to go where you want, when you want, free to worship as you wish, free to speak your mind, remember the price someone else paid for those freedoms, and if you see a veteran, a simple “thank you” would go a long way.