The price of freedom

Published 9:29 am Tuesday, May 28, 2013

AHOSKIE – Why must we, as Americans, limit ourselves to only one portion of a single day to pay tribute to perhaps the greatest patriots of them all?

That’s a question posed by the Rev. James Hutchinson during his featured remarks made here Monday during a Memorial Day program hosted by American Legion Hertford County Post 102 at No Man’s Land Park in downtown Ahoskie.

Speaking to a small, but spirited group of local citizens, Hutchinson was quizzical in his thoughts.

“We need to teach our children and our grandchildren about the real meaning of Memorial Day. I hope you will take three things to heart about Memorial Day from this service,” Hutchinson said.

“Look around you at the veterans here today,” he continued. “These men and women deserve your respect and honor. Any one of the military veterans here today could have been one of those that Memorial Day was established to honor. This day was not established to honor the living veterans, or those who died naturally after serving their country, rather to honor those killed in action. Those living today have the opportunity to live in the freedom that was fought for and died for. Those who died made the sacrifice for the freedom we know and love.”

Hutchinson said the roots of this special day started with 24 communities nationwide, including Raleigh, where citizens went out and laid spring flowers at the graves of war heroes long before there was an official Memorial Day….the first of which was May 30, 1868.

“It’s important to know that this tradition is now 145 years old. Why has it lasted so long….because some Americans still care about the price of freedom,” he stated. “But it saddens me somewhat to know that there are so many Americans that do not know about Memorial Day. What can we do to make this day, Memorial Day, the greatest day, without paying attention to the obvious to so many – that of enjoying a three-day weekend or remembering this day only as the official start of the summer season. Why do we not all have a moment of silence on this day? Why can’t all those who fly our nation’s flag on an everyday basis take the time to simply lower it to half staff, as required, from sunrise to 12 noon on Memorial Day?

“America of today needs to care about this day,” Hutchinson continued. “We need to use the news, email, Facebook, Twitter and everything we can teach with to remind those how important this day is. Cookouts are okay today; so are other family or personal outings, but there needs to be a time set aside during this special day where we teach our family and friends about the true purpose of Memorial Day.”

Hutchinson said he could make an argument that the sacrifices made by countless American heroes have indeed changed the world.

“We owe it to them for defending America and our freedoms,” he said. “We owe it to the families of these brave men and women who also sacrificed so much. Long after the battles are over, the guns are silent and the bombs have stopped exploding, the children of fallen warriors will still be missing their parents; spouses will still be without their partners; parents will continue to grieve for their hero sons and daughters that died way too early in the defense of liberty and freedom. We need to be there for them, not just as veterans organizations, but as American citizens.

Nobody can replace these fallen heroes, but we can offer shoulders to cry on and help in educational expenses for the children, assuring them that their loved one’s sacrifice will never be forgotten. Freedom, my friends, isn’t free,” he concluded.

“We appreciate you coming out today and honoring those that gave the supreme sacrifice,” said Post 102 Commander Willie Watford.

Watford said Post 102 is a “working group; we just don’t sit around and tell war stories.” He added that the American Legion is full of history, founded in 1919 as a patriotic veteran’s organization focusing on veterans’ services and their communities.

“The Legion is one of the most influential, non-profit groups in the United States,” Watford said. “There are Legion Posts today all over the country with a total membership exceeding 2.4 million.”

Watford touted the Legion’s programs for not only military veterans, but for children and youth as well.

“Our Hertford County Post was chartered in 1994; our claim to fame is that James “Catfish” Hunter, famed pitcher for the New York Yankees, was a product of our baseball program,” Watford boasted. “Annually we support youth baseball activities; we feature other programs such as oratorical contests for youth.”

Following tradition, Legion Post 102 also honors Hertford County natives who served in any branch of America’s military by placing a flag at their graves on Memorial Day.

The Rev. Roger Kiker, pastor of Cool Spring Baptist Church in Eure, gave the opening and closing prayer at Monday’s ceremony.

Also taking part in the event was Evelyn Rawls, a member of Post 102’s Auxiliary. She recited the poem – “Freedom is not Free.”

Prior to the playing of “Taps” to close the ceremony, Watford read the names of 13 members of Post 102 who passed away since Memorial Day 2012. That part of the program – entitled “Post Everlasting” paid a final salute to: Bob Bryan, Orville Britt, Earl B. Chappell Jr., Thomas L. Cherry, John L. Davis, Russell F. Fiske, Morris Hall, Daniel E. Herring, James H. Hyatt, Senator Ed Jones, Linwood L. Rawls, Warren Sexton, and Rosbon D. Whedbee.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

email author More by Cal