The Bakersfield Californian
This day is a reminder that freedom is not free
To some, today is the official start of summer, with pool parties, barbecue and neighborhood celebrations. Memorial Day sales are everywhere. To others it stirs up a complex range of emotions from sorrow to pride and reverence to grace.
Memorial Day is commemorated by many as a time to honor the legacy of those who died in service for our country’s freedom. The lives, time and service of those men and women we have lost are the immeasurable cost of our freedom.
Today there will be many events, programs and solemn ceremonies honoring those who stood watch, fought and sacrificed, so that many don’t have to.
Several months ago, one such ceremony was held at the Portrait of a Warrior Gallery – Kern County. It was for the unveiling of a pencil drawing by David Vanderpool of 2000 Highland High School graduate and U.S. Air Force Senior Airman William Palinsky. Airman Palinsky’s drawing now hangs among other Kern County servicemen and women who have died while in service to our country.
Armando Solis, gallery director of operations, and his staff showed quiet reverence to Palinsky’s family and their guests for the unveiling. They not only knew Airman Palinsky’s story, but they also knew the story of every fallen soldier portrayed in the gallery. Solis reminded us that regardless of which military branch in which a veteran served, they are all brothers and sisters in arms. “Freedom is not free.”
Like many of you, I have heard this phrase many times. To some it has become an American idiom and a catch phrase said without pause in reverence for the brave servicemen and women who lie in cemeteries in almost every town and city in the United States.
Standing in the Portrait of a Warrior Gallery for the ceremony, I truly felt the words
“freedom is not free.” This wasn’t the first time I have felt those words.
It was many years ago on a tour bus in Washington, D.C. As we pulled in for our first visit to Arlington National Cemetery, our guide was providing my wife Susie and I with an overview of what we were about to see. Our first stop was the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Her last words as we stepped off the bus were: “Please remember that freedom is not free.”
As we approached the tomb, I saw a panel which read, “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier know but to God.” I am embarrassed to say, until that day, I never really knew the history of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I knew it was the final resting place for an unidentified U.S. soldier who died in combat. But I did not know the reverential process in which the unidentified soldier was selected.
I also did not know that with zero exceptions, members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment have guarded the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier 24 hours a day, 365 days a year since April 1948.
On this day, I remember our nation’s greatest generation, which includes my dad, Larry, who served in the Marine Corps and my father-in-law, Boni, who served in the Army. And I honor all my family members now gone or currently serving to protect our freedoms.
This following letter was written by President Abraham Lincoln and sent in 1864 to a Mrs. Bixby, who lost several sons in the Civil War. Scholars consider it one of Lincoln’s finest literary efforts.
I feel this beautiful tribute remains significant and meaningful to all who have lost loved ones defending our freedom.
I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming.
But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.
I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.
Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,
A. Lincoln” Freedom is not free.