The Citadel

The Military College of South Carolina

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Honor those who fell for Freedom

The Post & Courier
Published 25 May 2014

Lieutenant General John W. Rosa, USAF (Retired)
Class of 1973
President, The Citadel

“Freedom is not free.” That saying carved on the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., is not about the cost of defending our freedom but about the ultimate sacrifice paid by our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen who were killed in combat. This Memorial Day we honor those who have died in service to our country and we also thank the one percent of Americans who make up our Armed Forces today. It is startling to realize that just one percent of our population make 100 percent of the sacrifices to keep us safe and free. They and their families rightfully deserve our gratitude and respect this special weekend that too often just celebrates the advent of summer.

The Citadel has a special connection with Memorial Day. Citadel graduates have served in every war since the Mexican War where J.H. Howell became our first alumnus to fall in battle on November 6, 1847. He died less than a year after graduating with The Citadel’s first Class of 1846. Sadly, nearing 200 years later, we will be remembering the lost members of the Long Gray Line, and especially, the 18 heroes from the Classes of 2003-13 who have died in the War on Terror.

This year 241 Citadel graduates will take the oath and be commissioned into military service. I am proud of these young men and women who are eager to serve their country; yet I am mindful of the dangers they will face on our behalf. People often think those in the military are pro-war but those who serve are our best guarantee that we and succeeding generations can enjoy peace. As General Douglas MacArthur so aptly stated in his famous Farewell Speech at West Point in 1962, “… the soldier above all other people prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.”

Memorial Day is much more than the holiday that kicks off summer – a fact that was recognized in 2000 with the establishment of the National Moment of Remembrance. Every American should pause at 3 pm local time for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation. Taking a moment from our celebrations to thank the men and women who gave their lives so we can wave the American flag with pride this weekend at parades and picnics is the least we can do.

Let us be cognizant that these selfless military men and women were also sons and daughters, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers. They, too, had planned to spend many Memorial Weekends with their loved ones as we will this weekend but now can only be remembered with flowers and wreaths in quiet rest. This Memorial Day, at precisely 3:00 pm, let us remember that the price of our freedom is very precious indeed.

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