This year I spoke at Luck High School (WI) for Memorial Day. It was very well done. The veterans walked in, the Boy Scouts posted the colors, and the ceremony began. The high school band played a number of patriotic songs, which were very stirring. I scanned the band, saw the trumpeters and was delighted to see Jenny and the Johnson twins, who I have seen grow these past 14 years since being at North Valley. However, my heart was sad.
I spoke of my Uncle Lambert Hegerfeld, a torpedo man on a submarine, the U.S.S. Gudgeon. She left Pearl Harbor on April 4, 1944, her 12th patrol, Uncle Lambert's 3rd patrol. She was reported missing on April 7 with 79 crew members aboard. It is thought the Gudgeon still rests on the floor of the ocean off the coast of Japan, on eternal patrol. He has a grave marker at "Punchbowl" cemetery on the island of Oahu, pictured above.
I also spoke of Randy Henze, a neighbor of mine outside of Evansville, Indiana where I lived from age 5 through the middle of sixth grade. Randy had a twin brother, Ronny, and they lived on a farm just down the road. One of our neighbors, the Cottrells, had a huge swimming pool, and the neighbor kids were always welcome. The twins would come after a hard day's work out in the field and dive in the cool water. Great memories.
Then Randy left for the Army, wanting to be a medic. His journey took him to Vietnam. As the story was told to me, Randy was treating a wounded soldier in the jungle. He stood up, raised his hands face in the air, and yelled "Why, God, why?" He was shot and killed.
Two young lives lost in their prime... a story not unlike many across the United States. War is a messy, complex issue. America has had so many since our founding, both internal (including not just the Civil War but many Indian wars) and external. I hate war, although I know that at times it is "justified." One of the reasons my Uncle Lambert and his two brothers volunteered to serve in the Armed Forces was to show loyalty to their country, especially since their father, my grandfather, was a German immigrant.
We are a nation of different ethnic backgrounds and religious beliefs, but we are united in one nation under God, indivisible, and we must always strive for liberty and justice for all.
I am thankful for all those who serve in the military. They have my eternal thanks. I end today with a poem, "No, Freedom Isn't Free," written by Commander Kelly Strong, retired US Coast Guard.
I watched the flag pass by one day.
It fluttered in the breeze
A young Marine saluted it, and then
He stood at ease.
I looked at him in uniform
So young, so tall, so proud
With hair cut square and eyes alert
He'd stand out in any crowd.
I thought, how many men like him
Had fallen through the years?
How many died on foreign soil?
How many mothers' tears?
How many Pilots' planes shot down?
How many foxholes were soldiers' graves?
No, Freedom is not free.
I heard the sound of taps one night,
When everything was still.
I listened to the bugler play
And felt a sudden chill.
I wondered just how many times
That taps had meant "Amen"
When a flag had draped a coffin
of a brother or a friend.
I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands
With interrupted lives.
I thought about a graveyard
at the bottom of the sea
Of unmarked graves in Arlington.
No, Freedom isn't free!!
Copyright 1981 by Kelly Strong