Guest Column: Dear and heavy

For a short time, I stood with soldiers. I joined the military for the college tuition and served four quiet years with Rockford’s 129th Infantry, Illinois National Guard, and after training I went to college and became a citizen soldier. As Guardsmen, we all knew our unit had been called up and placed in harm’s way before and would be called again in the future. Those that stayed in the unit after I left have indeed been called on many times by our country. I am proud to have been one of them.

My brother—he was a soldier. He served as paratrooper with America’s 911 force, the 82nd Airborne Division, then later with the 10th Mountain Division. He received his Combat Infantry Badge in Granada.

My father—he was a soldier. For more than 20 years, my father served on the frontiers and hot spots wherever and whenever our country needed him, many times at great personal sacrifice to himself and our family.

My wife’s father—now he was a soldier. Highly decorated in the Korean War, killed in Vietnam, and now quietly lying in the ranks at Arlington National Cemetery with those who gave their last and full measure of devotion. He was a husband and father of four children all under the age of 6, and still today they are paying a dear price. A price I am still learning as a part of his family; they will never forget him. Yes, he was a special man, an American soldier.

Two years ago, I sat for a long hour searching for the words to write before I wrote the following: “My deepest sympathy for the loss of your son, Brandon Rowe,” killed in Iraq. Brandon was from Roscoe, and his death came as a shock to all of us. A shock as to how dear the price and how young those are that pay it.

As I sat looking at the blank paper, I imagined how much more difficult it must have been for this young man’s commander to write the same letter. I imagined the Screaming Eagles of the 101st Airborne mourning their first fallen eagle of the war. As he writes the letter, the commander is shocked at how dear the price and how young those are that pay it. The 101st has not forgotten him, nor should we. I also thought of the difficulty Abraham Lincoln must have had in writing to the mother of five sons killed in battle during the Civil War. She, having “laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom,” is owed the gratitude of all generations to follow.

So it has been, and so it will be for each generation of Americans. The call of duty and the dear price of freedom make me wonder. I wonder if it’s the universal Irish heritage in us that cannot miss a good fight? Or is it the inspiration of those who fought so faithfully before us that inspires each generation? Having stood with soldiers, I think I know that those who have tasted the sweetness of freedom know deep in their hearts that it must be shared. Tyranny and injustice must be ended. Regardless of the why, hundreds of millions should be thankful that those brave men and women answered the call and paid the dear and heavy price of freedom.

Each generation has been tested, and undoubtedly, all future generations will be tested.

We are proud to say this generation of young Americans in uniform has met the test! They have answered the call to duty, and they, too, have paid the dear and heavy price. They, again like their fathers before them, have answered the question put forth by Francis Scott Key:

“Say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave?”

This generation answers yes! It does continue to wave, and we will see to it that it will for years to come “In The Land of The Free and The Home of The Brave.” Dear and heavy is the cost of freedom.

This Memorial Day, we, the benefactors of their sacrifice, express our appreciation and gratitude to those who have served, who, like generations past, are our HEROES.

Daniel Arnold grew up the son of a career soldier. He served four years in the Illinois National Guard. He also served six years on the Board of Advisors of the Military Ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ working with the chaplains of the Armed Services of the United States Military. As a hobby, he is an amateur military historian. Currently, he is the president and founder of a retail chain, Road Ranger.

From the June 1-7, 2005, issue

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