Today, in 2012, those of us who traverse Interstate 575 often witness the funeral cortege of those veterans as they are honored on their way to their final resting place in this beautiful cemetery.
Since 1927, the year I was born, there have been few years when a war was not raging somewhere around the world – man killing man — often for greed and power of man over man.
Millions of Americans have died defending our freedoms — usually on foreign soil. Few families have escaped the ravages of war — or of service to our nation.
My father served in World War I, Joan’s father served in both of the great wars, I served in the Korean War, a son and grandchildren have served in later wars, each willing to give their life, if necessary — to defend our freedoms and way of life.
And yes, even today, there is no peace to be found on earth — and peace may not come until the devil himself is bound and cast out into outer darkness.
Recently the daughter of a friend, now serving in Afghanistan, send an email to her parents describing a “ramp ceremony” for fallen soldiers. I quote it, with permission of her parents. Her words read:
“The past few weeks have offered me several heavy reminders that freedom doesn’t come free. Since being in Afghanistan, I have had the honor of attending three ramp ceremonies to pay tribute to six fallen soldiers.
“The ramp ceremony is a piece of modern Army tradition... the transfer of the flag-covered casket from a HMMWV into the plane that will carry the hero home for the final time. What follows is my personal experience...
“We stand in formation at the position of attention. Our weapons are slung across our backs and/or in our holsters. The flight line is quiet. A HMMWV drives slowly down the flight line toward the formation. Our fallen hero is in the back.
“Members of the 1st Infantry band play ‘Amazing Grace.’ The command, ‘Present Arms’ is called out by the sergeant major. We raise our hands slowly in final salute as the casket is lowered out of the vehicle by eight pall bearers who carry the casket (s) into the belly of the plane.
““Order Arms.” The final salute is dropped just as slowly as it was raised... and then we are dismissed. Dismissed to walk solemnly back to our various places of duty... to carry on with our mission... I would like to believe today was the last ramp ceremony I will ever attend, but unfortunately, I am sure there will be more.
“Although not the highlight of my days, I consider it an honor to stand with my fellow soldiers and say goodbye to one of our own... someone who has made the ultimate sacrifice defending our nation.”
This soldier’s remarks vividly remind us that ‘Freedom’ is not free. It never has been. Nor will it ever be.
If America wants to preserve its freedom from those who desire to destroy America, every American needs to become aware of how freedom is lost and then become involved in preserving our freedom here in America.
My wife, an award winning scrap-booker, recently completed a scrapbook on her parents and of the life a military family lived.
It is a powerful reminder of her ancestors and of the price they paid, as a family, to defend the freedoms so many take for granted. This scrapbook, along with other scrapbooks, and family histories will be on display at the Family History Fair being held on July 14 at the LDS Chapel on Bascomb-Carmel Road.
In addition to the display of scrapbooks there will be classes on how to utilize the powerful new family history sites on the internet — including familysearch.org with its millions of names, including black history records — and to gain insights from the presenters familiar with these sites to search for and record their own personal family histories. Wi-Fi is available to those who bring their own PCs.
On this Memorial Day 2012 is there any better way to honor those who have paid the ultimate price than to find and record their history?
Donald Conkey is a retired agricultural economist in Woodstock.