Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Land of the Free, Home of the Brave

It was graduation day--the very last day of boot camp. In a few short minutes they would no longer be referred to as 'Recruits', but Sailors in the United States Navy. In the distance you could see people gathering in the bleachers facing the parade grounds--community members that came out every time another Division completed training. Then of course were the parents and relatives alike who had not seen their sons in months. Company 058 was forming up in their dress white uniforms; it was the first time they had the opportunity to wear that particular uniform and there was quite a bit of pride in the air. The Company Commander was sharing his final words of congratulations to the young sailors--who he now referred to as Shipmates. As he was finishing his remarks Lee Greenwood's 'Proud to be an American' began to play on the loudspeakers over at the parade grounds. There is no doubt the timing of those remarks were very much meant to coincide with that moment. That was late in the summer of 1993 and although it was more than twenty years ago, it is still a very vivid memory in my mind.

Once again it is time to celebrate Independence Day, and every year around this time I recall that memory from so long ago. I sometimes wonder how my old 'Shipmates' are doing and hope that they are all well and living happy lives. My service was during a time of peace in our country, so I don't have firsthand knowledge of the sacrifices that so many have made. Just this last week we were saddened to learn that another Iowan was killed in Afghanistan. Lance Corporal Adam R. Wolf of Ottumwa was killed in action during combat operations in the Helmand province when a road side bomb exploded. He was only 25 years old. According to the Des Moines Register, he was the 95th Iowan or person with ties to Iowa who has died since September 11, 2001. You can view the list of all the fallen right here. When I looked at the names that are on that list, one of the first things I took note of was that number: 95.

Then I think about how long we have been engaged in combat operations. The first casualty on that database is Sgt. Bradley Korthaus from Davenport, Iowa. He died in service to our country on March 24, 2003 at age 28. Our country has been engaged in conflict for so long now that stories from the Theater of Operations rarely lead the evening news, and often times don't even get so much as a mention. It is important that we do not forget about those who are currently serving our country to protect those freedoms we are preparing to celebrate.

You can't look through that database without taking special notice of the ages of those listed. There are many on that list who were only 19 years old when they died. Barely out of high school, they made the decision to serve their country. In my time here at Hudson, we have had a number of graduates volunteer for the Armed Forces. I am very proud of them and proud of their service. It is no doubt difficult to keep track of our alumni, but I am certain many of them have been deployed--and some have probably seen multiple deployments. I pray for their safety and hope for a quick return home. 

It is a great time to celebrate our Freedoms and enjoy time with our family and friends. The flags are starting to come out, there are going to be a number of parades and barbecue cookouts, and of course the celebration wouldn't be complete without a fireworks extravaganza. So when you fire up that grill this Independence Day or at anytime during this summer, please take a moment to remember that we still have a lot of folks serving in harms way. I hope that patriotism continues long after the haze has dissipated from those fireworks celebrations.

And to all my Shipmates out there--past and present, I wish you Fair Winds and Following Seas. 

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