Robert may be in awe of these fellow parents and family members of those who have given their last full measure of devotion to their country, but I am in awe of a man like Robert who can look upon others who have done as he has done and think that somehow he hasn't done anything special, a man whose only mission now is to remember the love and sacrifice of his oldest son.
I had the privilege today to eat breakfast with a Retired Marine Veteran of Vietnam and other combat action. He moved to my area about two years ago. We share a bond neither wish we did - having both lost sons to the War on Terror. Some say the War on Terror began on 9/11. I look back and consider it started October 23, 1983 when a suicide truck bomber hit the Marine Barracks in Beirut Lebanon....
The father I met today lost his son in the suicide terrorist attack on the USS Cole October 12, 2000 as it was refueling in Aden Yemen. A few months ago I met a sister, now grown, but then age 8 when she lost her 20 year old brother in the Beirut Lebanon Marine Barracks bombing. In meeting her I thought of Mike's sister who was 13 when he was killed by an IED on August 16, 2005 near Yusufiyah Iraq in the Triangle of Death.
As I live life and grow older, I meet more and more who have lost sons and daughters who were brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, and dads and moms. They were someone's grandchildren, nieces and nephews. And they were friends to many. Next time someone says freedom is not free, ask them if they know what the cost of freedom is? Freedom has many costs. If lucky, some come home with only time out of their lives away from family and the privileges we enjoy in our good life in America. Some come home from war so changed they can't adapt to what they left nor those they left adapt to them. Some come home maimed for life in body and often their mind as well for PTSD is a terrible battle to fight. But there are those who give a cost so high it can only be measured in love evidenced in grief.
Today I talked with this tough Marine Dad - a career Marine who has fought and bled himself, a Drill SGT to others. Yet today, 11 years later, he wept as we talked, for he and his son gave a Lifetime of Love, a truly high payment for Freedom that is not free. Then he shared with me how he went to GITMO to witness the trial of the AQ Thug whose heavy hand was in the USS COLE attack that took his son's life. This father may weep tears, but he remains unbowed.
I was humbled and in awe of this father.
Proud dad of SGT Mike Stokely
KIA 16 AUG 05 near Yusufiyah Iraq
USA E 108 CAV 48th BCT GAARNG
Robert is right, the price of freedom is a heavy price, and many in this country and around the world are no longer willing to accept the payment that it entails. Many in this country are willing to dine at the table of freedom and then leave the bill to be paid by another, and still there are many who want to accept teh cost of their freedom but when the time comes shy away from being able to commit what is really needed.
Without people like Spc Ronnie Wildrick Jr., Sgt Mike Stokely, 1LT Robert Siedel and Captain John Dennison and the thousands of others who have given their life for this country, and the tens of thousands who have given parts of their body and mind, this country would have ceased to exist a long time ago.
We owe them and their families who continue to serve a debt of gratitude.