Jamie Allard: Memorial Day remembrance that freedom has never been free

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By REP. JAMIE ALLARD

Memorial Day, this year observed on May 27, is the start of summer for most Americans and is a day many will celebrate with barbecues for family and friends. We Alaskans might savor a little warm weather, for a change, hang out our flower baskets, and brush the cobwebs from our fishing poles this three-day weekend.

As we welcome the coming of summer, let’s not forget those who have sacrificed their lives for us, so we can have those barbecues in a free country. For our Gold Star families, this is a somber day of remembrance, a time when the pain of a loved one lost is acutely felt.

Freedom is not free: This is a phrase engraved into the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and its something Col. Walter Hitchcock of the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, N.M. is most often credited with coining. It’s how we remind ourselves that somebody somewhere “paid this freedom forward” by making the ultimate sacrifice of life itself. 

Memorial Day gives Americans the opportunity to pay respect to those in this generation and the ones who came before us who died while serving our nation. Please join me this Memorial Day in remembering – on behalf of past, present, and future generations – the deep and enduring debt we owe to our fallen and to their families, friends, and colleagues.

On this Memorial Day in 2024, I’m remembering the words of President Ronald Reagan, from his Inaugural Address in 1981:

With all the creative energy at our command, let us begin an era of national renewal. Let us renew our determination, our courage, and our strength. And let us renew our faith and our hope.American patriotism runs quiet, and deep, our value of freedom sustains our national heritage. 

“We have every right to dream heroic dreams. Those who say that we’re in a time when there are not heroes, they just don’t know where to look. You can see heroes every day going in and out of factory gates. Others, a handful in number, produce enough food to feed all of us and then the world beyond. You meet heroes across a counter, and they’re on both sides of that counter. There are entrepreneurs with faith in themselves and faith in an idea who create new jobs, new wealth and opportunity. They’re individuals and families whose taxes support the government and whose voluntary gifts support church, charity, culture, art, and education. Their patriotism is quiet, but deep. Their values sustain our national life,” Reagan said.

Even more so, for our greatest heroes, let’s look at the grassy expanses of all our national cemeteries with their row upon row of simple white markers bearing Crosses, Stars of David, or Islamic Crescents. They add up to only a tiny fraction of the price that has been paid for our freedom, Reagan noted, and I would add that many of our local cemeteries are the final resting place for these military super heroes, many of whom ran into the firefight or braved stormy skies and savage seas to ensure our safety as a nation.

These are men and women of unquestioned valor who dedicated themselves to the protection of our homeland and the preservation of its ideals. Through each successive generation, this country has endured because of those who sacrificed so much, so we may have the freedoms we enjoy today.

More than 1.2 million Americans have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom since 1775. Following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2002, the United States of America has lost 7,085 U.S. military personnel, including 1,242 Special Operations personnel.

In the words of Reagan, “Perhaps you and I have lived with this miracle too long to be properly appreciative. Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction.”

It’s never too late to be “properly appreciative.” It will take that appreciation, and more, for us to live up to the standards set by the Greatest Generation.

Rep. Jamie Allard serves the community of Eagle River, House District 23, in the Alaska State Legislature, is a U.S. Army veteran, and is the wife of a veteran.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I will not Forget the men and women that perished on that battlefield in a long distance from home. I will also speak the names of those who carried the war home with them either physical or mentally who have gone before me because of those wounds. I pray that the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers’, wives or husbands who are left behind can find solitude in knowing they are not forgotten. May God Bless our men and women in uniform and our Great Country for without them we cannot remain FREE.

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