Cost of freedom has never been truly free

While watching a television newscast with my husband in our home one night recently, I heard the phrase “the cost of freedom” used four times in the one piece. That repetition started a train of thought in my mind that I have been dealing with off and on since hearing the writer of the script’s interruption. What do we mean when we say “the cost of freedom?”

In today’s society, that phrase usually refers to the actual accumulated amounts of money being spent to defend our country or to aid other countries in the defense of their land. It sometimes means giving money to countries that will help in keeping them from attacking America at some distant date or in rebuilding from a terrible war or natural disaster. Many items can be slipped quietly into this category and only upon careful scrutiny do we find the different headings and how and why they were listed as “the cost of freedom.”

Another association that comes to mind especially around the Memorial Day weekend is the price our good men and women pay to put on and wear the uniform of our country.

They leave home and family, train for months, live different lives than what they are accustomed to living, and then leave to serve in a foreign land, often without much thanks. Even those that love them best get busy; they go on with their lives, and they somehow, even with the great depth of love, go on to work, play, and family activities. Only a few are truly grieved over, missed desperately, and written or called enough, in my opinion. Some, when returning home, find that everything that they knew has changed and many marriages end in divorce, bitter custody battles and unsettling results due to the service of our country.

Personally for my family, we have all my life been considered extremely patriotic. We have reason to be and I dare say that this defense of home and country will never change in our lives. We love the red, white and blue, and fly the colors from our homes. We attend military concerts, sing loudly, applaud generously and donate when we can. We try to write, visit and e-mail service men and women and be of help to the families left behind on America’s shores while thousands of miles separate loved ones.

My dad and mom met in elementary school in Georgia and dated in high school. Neither had any plans except to wed the other, get jobs, settled down into homemaking and child rearing and live happy, productive lives among family and friends of a lifetime. War changed all that. My dad joined the US Army and went through a quickened basic training and was soon shipped overseas to help fight the enemy. My mother, who had no life skills or training at the time to land a good job, moved back home to her mother and father’s farmhouse in rural DeKalb County, Ga., as was the custom for most young war brides.

I was born on the couple’s third wedding anniversary on my Mama Cole’s kitchen table. My mom sent a letter off to my dad to let him know he had a daughter that all said looked just like him, but it would be months before my mom knew if he ever received that missive or not.

When I was six months old, a yellow taxi pulled up in front of the farmhouse to deliver a yellow telegram, which I had until Hurricane Ike hit the Bolivar Peninsula in 2008. It was a simple message: “We regret to inform you that PFC Robert Henry Cannon was killed in action on New Georgia Island on July 2, 1943. Additional information will follow.”

My mother’s life, my life, and the lives of those in my dad’s family were changed irrevocably that dark night. Nothing was ever the same for the young woman who was a wife, mother, and widow before she was 21 years of age.

Let’s love and honor our service men and women on Memorial Day and all year long ... and please don’t forget the family members who pay the price, too.

Each time I sign or type my name, I remember the true cost of freedom that my father helped to pay, and I realize that I am only one of thousands who know it all too well.