Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Freedom is not Free

Photo: Creative Commons License by Elessar

Today is the day we set aside to honor the men and women who have fought for our freedom. Why those men and women, who often gave their lives for the effort, are only remembered on a single day once a year is a mystery to me.

I come from a military family, in fact many generations of them. All 3 of my brothers were in the Viet Nam war although only was one deep in the combat zone, and became disabled. My father fought in the Pacific during WWII, and the picture below of him shaving using his helmet as a vessel was taken in the Solomon Islands. You may not recognize that name, but surely know Guadalcanal. My father had rolls of snapshots of the Japanese (and American) dead but he would never talk about the war.

All my mother's brothers fought in WWII, and all the husbands of her sisters. Thankfully, they all survived. My young mother worked for a factory that made women's bras, and during the war they converted the line to make parachutes. Her father went to Ohio and packed munitions at Atlas Powder. My other grandfather, although a bit long in the tooth, was in the US Navy.

I remember the blackout curtains every night because we lived a mile from the ocean. here were enemy submarines off our coast, and in the Gulf of Mexico. I remember squeezing that nasty orange pellet into white stuff called margarine to make it look more palatable (it wasn't), and I remember my 5th birthday cake made in a coffee can because that was all the sugar and flour my grandma could get with her ration stamps.

Both of my great grandfathers on my mother's side fought in the Civil War, along with over 90 cousins (a third of them died). Among my blood ancestors, I count over 20 who fought in the War of 1812, nearly that many in the French-Indian Wars, 7 in the Frontier Rangers who protected the western flank (around the Great Lakes) for General Washington, and 6 men that I know for sure fought in the Pennsylvania Continental Line during
the Revolutionary War.

So, here is my question for Veteran's Day: How many of you
actually own a printed copy of the Constitution and Bill of Rights (besides the one in that dusty antiquated encyclopedia set)? How many of you have read it again within the last 2, or even 5, years?

I will confess that only recently did I buy a pocket-size copy to re-read and keep handy. I still cannot tell you all the amendments and when they were voted into law, although like most of us who watch TV, I am familiar with at least some, the right to bear arms, freedom of speech, and the right not to self-incriminate.

"I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." ~James Madison, speech, Virginia Convention, 1788

"Men fight for liberty and win it with hard knocks. Their children, brought up easy, let it slip away again, poor fools. And their grandchildren are once more slaves." ~D.H. Lawrence

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