By John Ubaldi
Contributor, In Military
The holidays are fast approaching and families are beginning to prepare for Thanksgiving. Before we enjoy this cherished holiday and start to contemplate Christmas, let’s remember the one group of Americans who will not be able to celebrate the holidays at home. They are the gallant men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces, who are scattered across the globe fighting for freedom in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Africa and other areas of the world.
Veterans Day, November 11, is a day to honor all veterans who have served the cause of freedom. We must remember those who have sacrificed themselves for our liberty. Far too often, our veterans have been relegated to second-class citizens, never fully receiving the heroic recognition they aptly deserve.
Veterans Acted Heroically during the Mass Shooting in Las Vegas
The horrific Las Vegas massacre showcased the heroic action of several veterans, such as former U.S. Marine Taylor Winston. In the midst of this tragedy, Winston seized a truck and repeatedly drove critically injured victims to safety at local hospitals.
Then there was Robert Ledbetter, a U.S. Army Ranger who spent one tour of duty in Iraq. He crafted a makeshift tourniquet utilizing a flannel shirt to aid one of the victims. Ledbetter and other combat-trained medics assisted other shooting victims with total disregard for their own safety.
U.S. Marine Brendan Kelly saved the life of Renee Cesario; they had met only hours earlier at the Jason Aldean concert. Kelly recognized the sound of gunfire and forced Cesario to the ground. Then he covered her body with his own to protect her.
The men and woman who serve this nation are well aware of the dangers they might face, but they enlist anyway. Veterans such as Chief Warrant Officer 3 Lori Hill, an OH-58 Kiowa helicopter pilot in Iraq, became the first woman to be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism.
During an incident, Hill drew fire away from the lead helicopter and provided suppressive fire for ground troops. A rocket-propelled grenade hit her helicopter and Hill was shot in one ankle, yet she maintained ground support until the troops were safe.
President Kennedy Called Our Servicemen and Women ‘Guardians of Peace’
President John F. Kennedy said, “Our servicemen and women are serving throughout the world as guardians of peace – many of them away from their homes, their friends and their families. They are visible evidence of our determination to meet any threat to the peace with measured strength and high resolve. They are also evidence of a harsh but inescapable truth – that the survival of freedom requires great cost and commitment, and great personal sacrifice.”
We live in a society where the few are sacrificing for the many. Sadly, people often speak of freedom but say that defending liberty is for someone else’s son or daughter, not their own.
Upon returning from Iraq, an Army colonel was invited to a cocktail reception on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Because the hosts’ son was interested in military affairs, the colonel suggested that perhaps he should consider applying to the United States Military Academy, just up the river from New York City.
The hostess put her arm around her son and replied, “No, no, no! He has much more important things planned for his life.” She patted the colonel on the arm and said, “But I’m glad we have people like you to protect us.”
Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, in a September 2010 speech at Duke University, commented on the lack of ROTC programs at many of America’s most prestigious universities. “Over the past generation, many commentators have lamented the absence of ROTC from the Ivy League and other selective universities. Institutions that used to send hundreds of graduates into the armed forces now struggle to commission a handful of officers every year,” Gates said.
If we are to be one nation, then all of us must serve, not just a select group sacrificing for the many. As President Kennedy famously said in his 1961 inaugural address, “My fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”
Veterans Have Proudly Served This Nation, Realizing that Freedom Is Not Free
It’s humbling to know that many veterans have served this nation proudly in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard, realizing that freedom is not free. They were following in the illustrious tradition of previous generations who made great sacrifices for the cause of liberty.
On this Veterans Day, let’s take time to remember all those who serve in the Armed Forces of our nation, as well as those who served the cause of freedom but did not come home. Their lives ended in places like Belleau Wood, the Argonne, Omaha Beach, Salerno, Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Iwo Jima, Pork Chop Hill, the Chosin Reservoir, and hundreds of rice paddies and jungles in Vietnam.
In recent years, they have fallen in the Persian Gulf, Somalia, Afghanistan, Fallujah, Nasiriyah, Ramadi, Baghdad and across the Middle East.
Freedom is too precious a gift not to acknowledge the gallant warriors who served and continue to serve in the Armed Forces of the United States. Let’s honor all who serve. It’s the least we can do.