What is freedom worth?

Posted May 31, 2018 at 6:19 pm

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“(My son) Michael felt it was worth his life,” said the father of the late Lt. Michael P. Murphy who was a U.S. Navy SEAL killed in Afghanistan.

Sons of American Legion Post No. 186 Commander Steve Liebetrau quoted Murphy, noting most people today, even though we have been at war for the last 17 years, would not be able to tell you why we even celebrate Memorial Day.

“This weekend holiday our cities will be decorated and the American flag will be flying along downtown streets across America,” he said. “There will be memorial ceremonies held at cemeteries where veterans are buried beneath broad, manicured grounds marked with long regimented rows of white marker stones.”

“Some people will gather in those places of rest around the country to remember their own family members who died in service,” said Liebetrau. “Others will come to honor all who have served our nation in times of war and in times of peace.”

“The flag will be raised solemnly as the National Anthem is played or sung,” he said. “The melancholy notes of ‘Taps’ will spread over the silent grounds.”

“The older veterans in attendance will be recognized by their baseball hats emblazoned with military branch insignias, or with the names of the wars they were in, or as in our community, caps from the American Legion,” Liebetrau continued. “They will stand at attention and salute at the raising of the flag or during the play of ‘Taps.’ Their eyes and cheeks may be moist with tears because they will be remembering fallen brothers and sisters in ways most of us cannot imagine.”

“It’s not wars that we are remembering. We are remembering those who served and those who gave their last full measure of devotion in order to insure that the freedoms that this country offers to all would be able to be passed on to the next generations.”

“We remember them because they tell something of our human dignity,” he said. “They remind us of the cost of freedom and of the quality of our character as a nation. We do not gather on this holiday to glorify wars. Rather, we are challenged to remember that when war comes to us, there are those who are willing to give their all to defend this nation. Deep down we want to remember in the hope that we will find ways to prevent wars and never again have to fight in them.”

“All veterans hope and pray that their war will be the last war,” said Liebetrau.

The American Legion was formed in 1919 by three American officers who served during World War I, the Great War To End All Wars,” said Albert E. Hoschler American Legion Post No. 186 Commander Warren Thompson. “The men and women who initially joined assumed it would have a limited existence determined by the longevity of its World War I membership. That, unfortunately, has not been the case, and the American Legion still serves veterans and our communities some 99 years later with the same dream of becoming obsolete through the power of prayer and a quest for peace.”

“How will we honor the people these flags represent?” he asked. “We must continue the good works they began. We, like they, will not be remembered for what we bought, but what we built…Not by what we got, but what we have gave…Not by what we learned but what we taught.”

“We will be defined by every act of integrity, compassion, courage and sacrifice that enriched and empowered others,” said Thompson. “Living a life that matters does not happen by accident or circumstances but by the choices we make. May the ceremonies of today deepen our reverence to these dead. Let us resolve by word and deed to advance their contributions and emphasize our privilege and our duty to serve others.”

Thirteen veterans’ flags were added to the Avenue of Flags this year: Dellis Dimmick, Marvin Hitzemann, Dennis Hultgren, Larry Jurgensen, Cyril Larsen, Lloyd Miller, James Nabb, Earl Oetken, Guy Ross, Milton Schneider, Stanley Taylor, Carl Westergard and Forrest Williams.

“We thank those of you who are presenting flags in memory of your loved ones,” said Akron Mayor Sharon Frerichs. “I know how moving that moment is when the name of your loved one is called (in the Flag Roster).”

“As we sit and listen to all of the names read of our deceased veterans, we are each reminded of their service, personalities and treasured memories whether they are a family member, neighbor or friend,” she said. “The willingness of America’s veterans to sacrifice for their country has earned them our lasting gratitude.”

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