Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence Day!

I am not ashamed to admit that, hands down, Independence Day is my favorite holiday of the year.  I usually follow that statement with a tongue-in-cheek comment that runs somewhere along the lines of: "You gotta love any holiday that is celebrated with explosives!"

All joking aside, Independence Day is inspiring to me on so many levels.  I marvel at the miracle of so many brilliant men not only belonging to one generation, but living in the same country.  These men were men of means and reputation who had the most to lose if their venture failed.  And yet they didn't waver.  Of all the Founders, George Washington is the most inspiring to me.  When we think of 1776 we usually reflect only on the fact that that was the year we became our own nation.  But 1776 was a very bad year for the patriot cause, and we very nearly lost everything during the battle for New York.  Any other man would have been crushed by the disaster of that battle and given up, but General Washington stayed true to the cause he had embraced.  He met emergency, disaster, rank recriminations and treasonous cabals with fortitude,courage and absolute faith in the rightness of what he was doing.  When others had given up hope, he embodied the spirit of the Revolution and kept it alive.  Because of him and the brave men who served under his command, the American Army lived to fight another day and eventually secured, in fact, the liberty we had proclaimed for ourselves at the outset of the struggle.

We are fond of saying that "freedom isn't free".  Truer words were never spoken.  The fight to become free and remain free has always cost the blood of the best amongst us in every generation.  Yesterday, at the Arizona Celebration of Freedom event I got the opportunity to visit with men who fought at the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War.  The stories they told me were amazing, and I felt humbled by the sacrifice they made on behalf of our country.  Even as I sit here and write this in the comfort and security of my own home, the best of our nation's men and women are standing between us and "the war's desolation."  They fight to stop those people who would do us harm and threaten our way of life.  They give up time with their loved ones so we can safely enjoy time with ours.  And, over 3000 times since September 11, 2001, some have actually given their lives for this freedom we love so much.

I haven't written very much about my own cousin, SFC Jake Whetten, because the feelings are still very near the surface and so intensely and personally felt that I can't fully express myself yet.  But he has been on my mind all weekend.  When we sang America the Beautiful in church today I could't get through the third verse.  When we stood and sang The Star Spangled Banner I couldn't get through the third verse.  These things mean more to me now, and I am just a member of his extended family.  I can only imagine the sorrow that his immediate family feels at this unwanted honor they now bear.

My heart is so full of gratitude for my freedom that I can't completely express myself tonight, but I wanted to put down in writing how grateful I am for the privilege of being a US citizen.  God bless this country, God bless the memory of our Founding Fathers, and God bless and protect our men and women in uniform this glorious 4th of July.  Happy Independence Day!

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Price of Freedom

Since September 11, 2001, I have lowered the flag in my front yard on numerous occasions to honor the sacrifice of a soldier, sailor, marine, or airman who had recently paid the utmost price for my freedom. In each instance I have said a prayer for the family of the departed hero as my flag lowered to honor their sacrifice. During the official period of mourning, the sight of my half-masted flag was a quiet and eloquent reminder of the fact that "Freedom Isn't Free".

On Friday night I went out to my flagpole and, once again, lowered my flag to half mast. But the prayer I offered that night was for my own family this time. Earlier that day my cousin, SFC Glen Jacob Whetten, joined the ranks of those who have given the last full measure of devotion for their country.

The flag in my front yard flies at half mast, and I see Jake now every time I pass it. When the official word gets out and flags across the state lower to half mast, I will see Jake. And I will cry. I am more intimately acquainted with the price of my freedom now. The Hall of Heroes is no longer a nameless, faceless group of men and women from ages past. It now has the name and face of someone I know and love, someone I looked up to and prayed for.

SFC Glen Jacob Whetten, United States Army
March 19, 1978 - March 12, 2010
Operation Enduring Freedom