Coming from a military family, I have an understanding about some things in life a lot civilians will never ‘get’. They will never truly understand the price paid for them by generations of military service men and women, that served for them. In today’s times it is so frustrating to turn on the television and see the media only show the negatives on our military. You never see the positive action behind the scenes. You will never see a camera shot of an officer bending down to give an Iraqi child a doll. You will never see the signs of relief when they roll through their nieghborhoods to assure them safety for one more night. You will only see the thousands of casualities reported and hear how horrible the war is.
And while those fighting for us die, you will hear your fellow American say under their breath….’well they signed up for it’. Most feel it’s not as tragic as the deaths at VA Tech, because service men and women sign up to die. Most feel that since it’s not on our soil, that it’s not worth thinking about. This last statement is not to make light of what happened in Virginia on campus. That was a horrible tragedy and I wish those families and survivors some peace. However the loss of every one of our soldiers overseas is also a tragedy. Those young men and women volunteer for you and they are fighting for your right to freedom.
One of my best friends, who is currently serving his 3rd tour in Iraq, wrote the most touching memorial to two of his buddies. I just had to pass it along. They died away in February…but it’s never too late to show some appreciation. I hope this letter makes you think.
Today I heard the most hauntingly beautiful sound and I will never, as long as I live, forget it. It was Amazing Grace picked on an acoustic guitar that went right into the Star Spangled Banner. It is not just the sound of the guitar that will haunt my memories for a lifetime but the sound of that guitar and the sound of the man crying as he played it. He struggled to play it all the way through but he managed to honor his friends with that tribute. You see today we paid our respects to CW4 Keith Yoakum and CW2 Jason Defrenn. These heroes were killed on the 2nd of February 2007. Just four short days ago. They died defending thier wingman and died defending what they believed in. Freedom.
Freedom isn’t free. I have heard that so many times in my life. What does it really mean? Let me tell you. We live in the greatest nation on earth. Bar none. We have freedom of speech. Religion. Press. To elect government officials. To be an entrepeneur. To be lazy if we so choose. So many people come from other countries to live the American dream. And so many of these people are successful in that endeavor. Why? Freedom. But how can we as a nation have such freedoms? We have these freedoms because there is a tiny fraction of our population who defend it. They have sworn an oath that is greater than themselves and they live by it. To defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. This tiny fraction are the men and women of the Armed Forces of the
blood. The blood of patriots. We are the greatest nation today because of patriots who have gone before. Heroes.
These two men bought and paid for your freedom. They gave the ultimate sacrifice. Their lives. Yet they are not the only ones we have to thank. The people who need to be thanked are the children and the wives these two men left behind. The children and the wives who sent thier loved ones away not dreaming they would return in a casket. The children who will not grow up knowing their father as anything more than a few memories from their younger years and what their relatives tell them. The unborn child who will never even see his or her father. Ever. Never anything more than a photograph. The two wives who will have to forever remember the last time they made love to their husband or the last time they kissed. There will be NO next time. Thank the women who will now have to raise children on their own. Thank the children who won’t have their fathers teach them how to throw a football or change the oil on a car. They paid for your freedom too. Their payment though will last a lifetime. A lifetime of greif. A void in their hearts that could never quite be filled again. So thank them. Pray for them. Cry for them and cry with them. You see freedom isn’t free. It is paid in blood. But it is also paid in tears. The tears of the loved ones left behind.
CW4 Yoakum and CW2 Defrenn and their wingman were ambushed by the enemy. Even after sustaining damage to their aircraft they turned toward the enemy to engage them and to protect their wingman. They could have tried to get out of there and limp the aircraft home. They could have. But these men were warriors. They were part of a special breed of pilots. Attack pilots. Gun pilots. They don’t run from a battle they finish it. This is their mentality and they lived it to the end. Turn into the fight. Don’t run from it even when you are hurt. Protect your wingman at all costs. There is no greater love than to lay down your life for your brother.
Say thanks to the people who have taken that oath and defend our freedom. Many of you who will read this are already defending freedom. Many of you have served and defended freedom in the past. Many of you don’t and won’t. Whoever you are please thank these men and women who give up so much so you can sleep better at night. Don’t just say thanks. Shake their hand and MEAN it. But them lunch or a beer and talk to them. Find out their name and where they are from. Honor them by thanking them. Thank the vets who have gone before. Many of them were never thanked for their sacrifices in the past. My father is a Vietnam vet and he didn’t return to the U.S. to an airport full of people cheering for him. Quite the opposite. He was called names. But you know what, he sports his Vietnam Vet lisence plate with PRIDE. He didn’t do it for accolades. He swore an oath like his father before him during WWII and like I did now. He believes in freedom. Thanks pop for the 22 years of service to your country. Thank you to all my friends who are in the service and defend freedom still today. Thank you CW3 Chuck Fortenberry and CW2 Shane Colton. You are not forgotten.
Thank you CW4 Keith Yoakum and CW2 Jason Defrenn. You will not be forgotten.