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Altar of freedom

By Spencer Price It’s called the ‘Wall of Heroes.’ On it are the names of some of the US service members killed in action in this part of Afghanistan. Mostly young, their ages range from 19 to 39. Among the names are men and women, all of whom were sons and daughters, and many of whom were fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, best friends to someone back home. The Wall of Heroes is a somber place, a hallowed place. I pass by it everyday while performing my duties, and everyday I offer thanks to the men and women whose names are on the wall for their sacrifice and I give thanks to God that there aren’t more names. At every meal I can’t help but glance around the chow hall, to the person in front of me, and to my left and to my right, and wonder what fate is to befall them. Will they complete their rotations safely and, in time, return home to be reunited with family and friends? Or will they meet their ends on a dry, dusty dirt road in some desolate mountain pass, a world away from those they love. And when I’m out and about and I look through the glass of the armored vehicles leaving the relative safety of the compound at the clean-shaven faces of the young men inside, some of whom look hardly older than boys, I wonder about them, too ‘“ what fate awaits them today? Will the news of their return home bring joy or despair? On November 22, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln wrote a letter addressed to a Mrs. Bixby, Boston, Mass.: ’I have been shown in the files of the War Department, a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously upon the field of battle. ’I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which would attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the nation they died to save. ’I pray our Heavenly Father will assuage the anguish of your bereavement and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be found in having laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.’ During war, sacrifice comes in many forms ‘“ some sacrifice their lives, while others sacrifice by enduring toil and sweat and hunger and the many depravations that accompany the horrors of combat. But those at home sacrifice as well ‘“ the anguish and worry over a loved one placed in harms way and the pain of physical separation from a husband, a wife, a father, a mother, a son, a daughter, a friend. A moment missed spending time with loved ones is a special moment lost forever ‘“ it is all a form of sacrifice. It’s been said of Americans in World War II, both soldiers sent overseas and families remaining back home, that ‘all gave some, some gave all.’ In fact, that is true of American soldiers and their families in all wars we’ve fought from the Revolutionary War to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And we continue to give, some a little, some everything. Soon will arrive America’s birthday ‘“ July 4th. It is important to consider for a moment what we as a nation are truly celebrating on that day and why that day, in particular, was chosen as our nation’s birthday. We didn’t chose as America’s birthday the day the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, nor the day our government was founded through the ratification of the Constitution nor even the day the Bill of Rights was created. We chose as America’s birthday the day we declared ourselves a free people, bound by no other nation’s laws, nor subservient to any foreign government. We declared ourselves free and independent and we were willing to and, in fact, did fight to establish that self-sovereignty. That is what we fight and sacrifice for today ‘“ the preservation of our freedom so hard won, and so determinedly defended. All real Americans, whether in combat in a foreign land or tending the home fires in our own country, are in the fight. And it is important to remember that no matter what your sacrifice, whether fighting in combat, or worrying about a loved one away at war, or sending a care package to a soldier overseas, or simply saying ‘Thank you’ to a service member, your sacrifice, too, is worthy of being laid upon the altar of freedom. To contact Spencer, read his blog, or review an archive of his columns, please visit

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