Men and women. That’s the price of freedom.
Living and dead. Yes, yes, “…in the long run we all are dead” (Keynes). The price of freedom is that a lot of people don’t get a chance at the long run. They die too soon, too young, on a distant, unfamiliar battlefield somewhere.
I was visiting the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial in the Dutch village of Margraten in May 2010 as part of the 104th Infantry Division Timberwolves WWII tour. I was looking at the Tablets of the Missing with its 1,722 names. (8,302 ‘found’ WWII Americans rest in peace at the cemetery.) Two elderly ladies, possibly Dutch, definitely of the age to be WWII ‘veterans’, approached me and commented to the effect that “…all these men should have had full lives, maybe with wives and children”. Instead they paid the price of freedom.
I’ve attended several reunions of the National Timberwolves Association, including the 65th and final official reunion Labor Day Weekend 2010. I went to those and traveled on the European Tour because my lady’s father is a living veteran of the 104th. This Labor Day 2011 we attended the first national reunion of the National Timberwolves Pups Association. The ‘children’ of the vets (many 65-ish like myself), their families, and interested friends have chosen to continue to meet and honor the sacrifices of the WWII soldiers. Many vets attended the Pups reunion last weekend, but their numbers are dwindling rapidly by the attrition of age and infirmity. Years hence as the reunions continue there will be more grand-pups attending and eventually no surviving WWII vets.
I’ve pondered the purpose of continuing WWII reunions. Are we trying to re-live that war? I don’t think so. WWII is possibly the last war in which we Americans had a clear, common purpose. Korea, Vietnam, Iraq I & II, Afghanistan. (Does Bosnia count?) Vague purposes and vague successes. But we are still spending the currency of precious young lives for the price of freedom. WWII is at least a better symbol of sacrifice.
At this Labor Day reunion we had a reminder of the value of freedom from Sara Moses, Holocaust Survivor. Two things she said stuck in my mind:
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.” -quoting Edmund Burke.
“…evil-doers exist because people remain silent and do nothing…” -her words.
I fear we are losing our freedom more rapidly here at home than in wars overseas. The cost in lives is less here. We still send them away to do that. We must never forget what freedom is really like, and what it costs. We must not remain silent and must not do nothing. For these reasons we must, among other things, continue to honor the WWII veterans, and the price they paid, for generations to come.