The smell of delicious breads, various meats, and cobblers came from the rows and rows of chuckwagons and filled the air on that hot, humid April day, as we set up our instruments to play for the wounded warriors project, at Fort Sam Houston deep in the hill country of Texas.
The year was 2010. I was 19 years old, & had been raised with a staunch respect for those serving our country, due to having a father who had done the same. “Freedom is never free”, he would tell my sister and I. “Don’t you ever take for granted your rights to work where you want, to live where you want, to go to church, to go back to school to further your education… don’t ever take for granted that you can live how you want to live within reason, and say what you want to say without fear. Your whole life has been built on the blood of our fathers.”
But it wasn’t until this event, that I caught just a glimpse of the price, and the truths gripped my soul, affecting me down to the very core. At 14 years old, I had written my first patriotic song, “Freedom Isn’t Free”. This, along with my song “Welcome Home Soldier” would be the highlighted songs for the event. I will never forget standing there on stage, where all of those words my dad had burned into our heads came to life.
I scanned the audience, and fought back the tears as it hit me. There, in the second row back, a soldier held his tiny daughter with the only arm he had left. Just to the front of him, stood one on prosthetic legs. As I looked on, I saw more and more prosthetic limbs, some in wheel chairs, all of them so grateful to be there, but seemingly plagued by an unspoken sorrow. There were many missing limbs, many scarred faces, and thousands of horrific stories that came with them all. And all these were just the ones who made it out alive.
The cost for our freedom is somebody’s son or daughter, somebody’s brother or sister. Somebody’s beloved. They leave behind families, who’s hearts ache with every passing day to hear the voice of their loved one, and they live with a constant, & sometimes overwhelming concern for their safety.
It’s fitting that Memorial Day falls at the beginning of the season of BBQs, concerts, fairs, rodeos, and all the various summer events that take place, please remember, those freedoms you so effortlessly enjoy, are not free. Because of them, we were born free, and because of them we will die free. So, live it up, but do so with an immense amount of gratitude. And when you see the ones who made it out alive, thank them. They are deserving of far more.