Harriet Freiberger: In your honor
There is something you, our veterans, understand better than the rest of us about the importance of this 11th day of the 11th month. On this 98th anniversary of the armistice that ended WWI, you grasp the full meaning of what it means to assume responsibility.
It has everything to do with the words each of you spoke that day when you stood in your freshly pressed uniform and looked into the eyes of your commanding officer. For some, it was a lifetime ago; for others, a quick glance into the rear-view mirror; for all of you, a defining moment. You raised your right hand, then swore to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, to bear true faith and allegiance to the same.
Now, having served this country, you know what that oath required of you. So also, back in 1776, did representatives from 13 states know the price they might pay when they pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.
You, our veterans of so many wars, you get it. What about the rest of us? Will we take the same oath — to support the document that governs our lives? What is it we Americans hold dear enough to swear to?
While we have been enmeshed in our differences, our quarrels have been broadcast and mocked around the globe. But, the whole truth is that our differences are essential to what we Americans are — protected as individuals under our Constitution. In spite of what we belittle and bemoan, each of us speaks without fear of retribution, relying upon the law of our land. ”Equal before the law” has been a work in progress since our beginning.
The concept has taken wings, a priceless legacy which we have shared with the greatest generosity ever known. Nowhere has that generosity been more evident than during our televised journey around the earth on Jan. 1, 2000, when we watched the sun rise on this 21st century. We glimpsed the myriad physical structures and thriving populations in cities which 50 years earlier were laid waste by an adversary determined to mold the world into a singular shape and only one acceptable way of thinking.
On this Veterans Day we remember what the United States military helped accomplish in defeating that enemy. Then, following war’s end, when Stalin closed off all land and water routes to West Berlin. U.S. and British planes delivered food and supplies for 13 months, keeping 2.5 million German citizens alive. The United States led the way for
European recovery with a $17 billion loan to war-torn nations. It was no accident that democracy gained a strong foothold in Europe’s returning prosperity, nor, after 40 years, that the Berlin Wall fell.
You, our veterans, understand. You promised to defend our Constitution. You represent the best of an idea that has brightened countless lives. More than skyscrapers, blue jeans, television, jazz and assembly-line made automobiles; more than the internet and countless other discoveries and inventions that have arisen from our freedom, there is something much bigger.
Here in our town, that something will be visible to our children when you stand with them today, your strength of purpose teaching them what a promise means. School is their first step outside that safe place called home. From you they will learn about a larger home called America, where we are all different AND free, protected by you.
Today is Veterans Day. We can stop our bickering and acknowledge the obligation that accompanies the liberty we take for granted. We should stand with you, look into our children’s eyes, and take an oath.
Harriet Freiberger has lived in the Elk River valley since 1982.
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