We started paying the price on April 19, 1775. That was the day the list started -- the war dead, the wounded, and those who are still missing in action. This Monday, 2,845 months later, we find that we are still paying the toll for our freedom.
We have often heard the phrase repeated that "freedom isn't free" but we don't always pause to reflect on the real costs that our heroes paid.
Since the firing of the "shot heard 'round the world" more than 1,530,000 men and women have been injured in battle. 38,159 are missing in action and more than 1,343,000 have paid the ultimate sacrifice to back up the Constitution that guarantees our God-given rights as a free people.
2.5 million casualties of war. This Monday is for them.
Memorial Day, which originally was called Decoration Day, was designated to honor those killed and wounded in battle for this nation. While we honor and owe a debt to all veterans every single day, we pay special tribute this Monday to those who went above and beyond. From dawn until noon the flags should fly at half-mast to honor the dead and then the flag should be raised quickly up the pole until dusk to honor those who were wounded.
This past weekend I walked through the "Veterans Stand-down" and saw heroes every place I looked. Some were very young, most middle-aged, and a few more senior than the rest of the crowd. The feeling of brotherhood came through. Frankly, I did not feel worthy to even be in the same area with those brave souls. The Cadet Corps from Yosemite High School did a great job with the presentation of the national colors and military flags. A couple of elderly veterans were overheard saying the cadets did such a great job that they could die comforted in the fact that this young generation was ready to carry the torch forward. Those cadets did a great job and showed the local heroes America's best days are still ahead of us.
When you look at our vets, you really don't see super heroes in the sense of Hollywood. You see ordinary folks who did extraordinary things. When we think that most of those who served volunteered to go into the fray, it boggles the mind. They stood in line to go, stood in line many hours while training, stood in line to eat, stood in line to get paid, and they stood the watch.
When we thank them, they deflect the praise and tell us they were happy to serve. They tell us that that would do it again; knowing everything they know and they would do it again!
We have war wounded here in our little spot on the globe. They walk around with scars, burns, psychological scars, and some with missing limbs.
Chance Gaal, who got his nickname because he saw himself getting a second chance as a young man coming here to live with his grandparents, is just one example. Now he is missing his legs and an arm and his regret upon hearing about his injuries was that he couldn't go back to rejoin his unit. His bravery gives us the chance to enjoy freedom. His bravery gives the older generation the chance to tell kids about the cost of freedom. We now will have a chance to help him during his recovery.
We have to send our young off to battle often because we only win our freedom for a short time until another tyrant tries to take freedom away. It falls on one generation to save freedom for the next generation. It will fall on future generations to provide it for others. It will never change.
The cost of freedom? Millions of veterans marching off to defend this nation. 2,489,335 casualties. Millions of family members who grieve and suffer with the loss of loved ones. Kids growing up without mommy or daddy around because of the sacrifice. The veteran living every second with the injuries suffered in battle.
We owe the veterans a debt we simply cannot repay. They deserve our thanks and our appreciation.
Thank you veterans. Thank you, thank you, and thank you.
On Monday, let's fly our flags. We certainly have 2,489,335 great reasons.