Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Cost of Freedom

I was on the USS Roosevelt, a destroyer in service with the United States Navy.

I was in the ward room onboard the Roosevelt and for those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s where the officers get together for meals.

In the ward room there was a video playing on the ship’s TV showcasing the Roosevelt.
Words flashed across the TV screen. “the USS Roosevelt, 9300 tons of sovereign American territory anywhere in the world.” The video then cut to scenes of the ship ploughing through giant waves, shooting her missiles and in general showcasing 9300 tons of sovereign American territory.

·         The video then cut to the National Ensign flying off the stern of the ship. The same flag I saluted when I boarded the ship.

·         There have only been a few times in my life when I have tear‘ed up watching the flag fly. This was one of them.

·         If you don’t feel something seeing the proud flag of our nation, flying majestically in the wind then you need to do a gut check or we need to talk.

·         Seeing our flag flying off the stern of the Roosevelt, I reflected on the sacrifice paid by the men and women who have fought, bleed and died so that I can be an American.

·         The words of Samuel Adams echoed in my head.

o   "The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil Constitution, are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our … ancestors: they purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of … blood, and transmitted them to us with care and diligence. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us … without a struggle, or to be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men."[1]

·         Four times in my life I’ve had the opportunity to raise my right hand and swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies and affirm that I would bear true faith and allegiance to the same.

o   The was 1st when I enlisted in the Marine Corps as an infantryman shortly after 9/11.

o   The 2nd and 3rd were when I was commissioned as an ensign in the Navy a few years ago and a LTJG when I came on active duty.

o   And the fourth was this past October when I was promoted to LT.

·         Defending the Constitution does not mean that I stand guard duty outside of National Archives to make sure that nefarious people don’t burn it.

o   Defending the Constitution means being willing to “stand between a loved home and war's desolation.”[2]


·         Today we are here to remember the price of freedom. For those who have always had freedom, and never known bondage, freedom often has little meaning.

o   For those who have lived in bondage there is no price too high for freedom.

o   If I was to place a dollar value on this thing called freedom it would be worth every penny I had.

o   The price of freedom is the same for everyone, though it is true that some pay more than their fair share while others pay nothing at all. The price of freedom has always been paid by a few who loved freedom enough to pay the cost for everyone.

·         It is the words of the poet who best explain who pays for freedom:

§  “It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.

§  It is the Sailor, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.

§  It is the Airman, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.

§  It is the Marine, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.

§  It is the Sailor, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

§  It is the them, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.

§  It is the Soldier, Airman, Sailor and Marine who salute the flag,
Who serve beneath the flag,
And whose coffins are draped by the flag,
And who allow the protester to burn the flag.”[3]

o   The price of freedom has been paid by brave men and women who have sacrificed their own lives that we might be free.

o   They gave their lives to defend a way of life that we cherish. It is upon their sacrifice that rests the very foundation of our freedom.

o   We need to not only celebrate their lives and remember their sacrifice, but also more importantly we need to honor their sacrifice by how we live.

o   We need to embrace, and protect the very freedoms that they fought, bled and died for.

o   This protection is embodied in what we call Patriotism.

o   But what I am talking about here is real Patriotism.

o   Not the patriotism so often seen that is composed of short frenzied outburst.[4]

o   The momentary patriotism that car dealerships prey on, the patriotism of Memorial Day sales. This kind of fake patriotism does not guarantee or protect freedom, it takes advantage of it.

o   The kind of patriotism I am talking about is seen in the “tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.”[5]

o   Where we say that we will be vigilant over the freedoms that others have bought for us with their blood.

o   And so it is as one person put it that our “Eternal vigilance is the is the price of liberty”[6] and freedom.

o   It is easy to utter the words eternal vigilance, “but in truth this is a mighty assignment. For it is often easier to fight for principles than to live up to them”[7]

The poet again says better than I what the cost of freedom is:

o   A little boy sat all alone, consumed by childish dreams
A baseball glove lay by his side, unraveling at its seams.
The final game had just been played, the score was 10 to 2
His little league team had lost again but that was nothing new.

o   Winning or losing didn't mean that much to this quiet, little lad
What bothered him most and hurt the worst was the absence of his dad.
There were seventeen kids and sixteen dads at almost every game.
And everyone knew why his dad didn't come but still it wasn't the same.

o   His daddy was a Boatswains Mate, a sailor all the way.
He'd been on cans and sweeps and such and often was away.
But then one day his dad came home without his usual grin
And told his Mom they had to talk, his orders had come in.

o   He heard his father speak of things he didn't understand
Like duty and honor and country and what's expected of a man.
His Mom sat awful quietly, her face was etched with fear.
He knew that she had heard some words she didn't want to hear.

o   And then his daddy picked him up just like any other day
And said "You know I love you, son, but I've got to go away."
"You know that I'm a sailor and you know what sailors do -
We run the ships and fight the wars for loved ones just like you."

o   To the boy it seemed like that had been a long, long, time ago.
And a boy really needs a dad around to help him as he grows.
To hold the bike when he learns to ride and to fix his baseball glove
But most of all he needs a dad to fill his life with love.

o   His mama read him letters that his daddy used to write
With strange new words he'd never heard that filled his heart with fright.
His daddy spoke of all the men who helped him fight the war
And how his Chief the day before had won the Silver Star.

o   His letters spoke of courage and a gallant brotherhood
Forged of soldiers and of sailors fighting for the common good.
And he praised the brave, young warriors - Army Green and Navy Blue
And he said "they keep the peace and fight the wars for loved ones just like you."

o   Everyday the young boy waited for the mailman to come by
For he loved his daddy's letters but they made his mama cry.
Just how long, the young boy wondered, would his mama have to wait
For his daddy to come walking down the drive and through the gate.

o   As the young boy ate his sandwich and his mama swept the floor
There appeared two Navy chaplains knocking softly on the door.
We regret to inform you" was the way the speech began
Then the mother grabbed her little boy and out the door she ran.

o   Nestled softly in her bosom, the young boy began to cry
At his mama's mournful question "Oh Lord, Why? Oh Why? Oh Why?
Even at this tender age, he knew his dad was gone
And that he and his mama would always be alone.

o   A little boy sat all alone, consumed by childish dreams
A baseball glove lay at his side, unraveling at its seams.
He wiped away the tears of youth just as the hearse passed by

o   "Dad, I don't want to be a sailor. It makes my mama cry." [8]

Citizen Responsibilities
o   A story I heard once talks of a man who came to the United States a few years ago from a foreign country and who now has his citizenship. He remarked that next to God and his loved ones, he considered his citizenship in the United States as his most precious and priceless possession. He said he loved the United States and was grateful for the freedom that it afforded him, because, you see, he had lived in a country where he did not know that freedom. He did not have it.

o   When he said that he loved the United States and that he thanked God for his citizenship in this country, he said it with every fiber of his soul. He said he would fight for this country and this freedom, even if it meant his own life. He said that every citizen of the United States ought to feel that way;[9]

o Brothers and Sisters we are living through times that would try the toughest of souls and if I’ve read my Bible right its only gonna get worse before it gets better.
o   At times it seems that we are living through what Thomas Paine, called “times that try men's souls.”[10]

o   “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot … will … shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."[11]

o   “What is obtained too cheap, we esteem too lightly ... it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.”[12]


At each retirement I go to both of the following are shared and I believe it speaks to both patriotism and the cost of freedom.


"I am the flag of the United States of America;
my name is "Old Glory".

I fly atop the world's tallest buildings,
I stand watch in America’s halls of justice,
I fly majestically over great institutions of learning,
I stand guard with the greatest military power in the world.
Look up! And see me.


“I stand for peace – honor - truth and justice.
I stand for freedom.

I am confident
I am arrogant
I am proud.


When I am flown with my fellow banners,
my head is a little higher
my colors a little truer
I bow to no one!!!


I am recognized all over the world,
I am saluted - I am respected.
I am revered - I am loved and I am feared!


I have fought in every battle of every war for more than 200 years:
Gettysburg, Shiloh, Appomattox, San Juan Hill, the trenches of France, the Argonne Forest, Anzio, Rome, the beaches of Normandy, Guam,
Okinawa, Tarawa, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and a scores of places long forgotten by all
except by those who were there with me,
I was there!!


I led my sailors, marines, soldiers and airmen.
I followed them
I watched over them
they loved me!!


I was on a small hill on Iwo Jima,
i was dirty, battle worn and tired
but my sailors and marines cheered me!
And i was proud!!!


I was at ground zero in New York City on September 11th as cowardly fanatics attacked America.
I was raised from the ashes of once proud buildings by brave firefighters.
Heroes, who risked their lives to save others, showing all that America, although bloodied, will never be beaten.


Those who would destroy me cannot win
for I am the symbol of freedom,
of one nation under god
indivisible with liberty
and justice for all.


I have been soiled, burned, torn and trampled on the streets of my own country
and when it is by those whom i have served with in battle, it hurts.

but I shall overcome
for I am strong!

I have slipped the surely bonds of earth
and from my vantage point on the moon;
I stand watch over the uncharted new frontiers of space.


I have been a silent witness
to all of America’s finest hours,
but my finest hour comes
when I am torn in strips,
to be used as bandages for my wounded comrades on the field of battle


when I fly half mast to honor my soldiers,
and when i lie in the trembling arms of a grieving mother,
at the grave-site of her fallen son or daughter

I am proud!!!!


My name is "old glory"

Long may I wave dear god
Long may I wave.”[13]


To the ghosts of those “who more than self their country loved” I say this:

“For over 237 years
They have stood the watch

While some of us were in our beds at night
They stood the watch

While some of us were in school
They stood the watch

Even before some of us were born into this world
They stood the watch

In those years when the storm clouds of war were seen brewing on the horizon of history
They stood the watch

Many times they would cast an eye ashore and see their families standing there
Needing their guidance and help
Needing that hand to hold during those hard times
But still they stood the watch

For over 237 years others have stood the watch.
They have stood the watch so that we, our families and
Our fellow countrymen could sleep soundly in safety, Each and every night
Knowing that a sailor, a soldier, an airman or Marine stood the watch

Today we are here to say
'The watch stands relieved’
we have the watch..."[14]

[1] Samuel Adams, Essay in the Boston Gazette, 14 Oct, 1771
[2] Francis Scott Key, “Star Spangled Banner,” LDS Hymn Book
[3] Attributed to Denis E. O’Brien in Wayne Karol,  Nixon, Clinton, and the War of the Sixties, Lincoln, NE: IUniverse, Inc., 2004
[4] Adlai Stevenson, ''Nature of Patriotism'' given in New York City, 27 August 1952, quoted in John Bartlett, Familiar Quotations, Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1955, p. 986
[5] Adlai Stevenson, ''Nature of Patriotism'' given in New York City, 27 August 1952, quoted in John Bartlett, Familiar Quotations, Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1955, p. 986
[6] Thomas U.P. Charlton, The Life of Major General James Jackson, Augusta, HA: Randolph & Co., 1809
[7] Adlai Stevenson, ''Nature of Patriotism'' given in New York City, 27 August 1952, quoted in John Bartlett, Familiar Quotations, Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1955, p. 986
[8] Attributed to Larry L. Dunn at Welcome to the Goatlocker. "I Don't Want To Be a Sailor." Accessed May 21, 2014. http://www.goatlocker.org/resources/cpo/anecdotes/nosailor.htm.
[9] Thorpe B. Isaacson, Conference Report October 1964, pg 52-56
[10] Thomas Paine, The Crisis, 23 Dec 1776
[11] Thomas Paine, The Crisis, 23 Dec 1776
[12] Thomas Paine, The Crisis, 23 Dec 1776
[13] Welcome to the Goatlocker. "Old Glory." Accessed May 20, 2014. http://www.goatlocker.org/retire/retire.pdf.
[14] Welcome to the Goatlocker. "The Watch." Accessed May 20, 2014. http://www.goatlocker.org/retire/retire.pdf.

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