Walden’s Words: Freedom Cost(s)

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Many people are not aware of the expenditures of freedom placed on military personnel and their families within the United States of America (USA).  Many citizens of the USA, consider July 4th as just another holiday, a day off from work, or a reason to have a barbeque with family and friends.  To a much smaller, yet significant population within the USA, July 4th is a reminder of freedom cost(s).  Allow me to share two examples.

The first example:  Several years ago, a woman approached me to talk about her journey to move forward in her life.  Her husband served in the military and had been missing in action (MIA) for several years.   From their marriage they had three children.  She explained to me how she was grateful that the Department of Defense stayed in touch with her through various correspondences.  However, the memories became too painful which prevented her from moving forward.  She also noticed her children’s agony whenever they attended a military ceremony representing their father’s sacrificial military service.

The woman conveyed the appreciation and the importance of organizations such as The Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/) and Defense for POW/Missing Personnel Affairs (http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/docs/DPMO_Personnel_Accounting_Community_Strategy.pdf).  However, in order for her family to move forward with daily living, she respectively asked the Department of Defense to refrain from contacting her family with periodic updates.

She continued in the discussion to explain the internal struggles she experienced while making that specific decision.   She decided it was the best decision for she and her children.  A few years later, she remarried and now had a husband at home, and a father present for her children in their everyday lives.  They are active in a church in their neighborhood.  Her children are now adults with their own children.  She told me they no longer received official correspondence, but they cannot avoid the specific holidays.  Freedom Cost(s).

The second example:  A few years ago, I worked with a woman that began to tell me how much she admired my military service.  I was in awe of her military story.  She informed me that her husband was a military pilot assigned to fly with the Tuskegee Airman.  They were married long enough for them to have a baby girl and for her to be pregnant with another baby girl before he was called to fly to war.

She waited and waited, and waited and waited some more for him to return home from his tour of duty until finally she was informed of her husband status- MIA.  She was heartbroken.  Her husband had been missing for well over 50 years and I could still sense and see the heartbreak in her voice and in her eyes when she spoke of him.

She described to me how she all by herself raised 2 girls to become 2 very successful young women.  She shared with me how different men asked for her hand in marriage, but she always declined.  The years turned into decades.  A half century had gone by since she shook the hands of her husband.  She shared with me how some people encouraged her to remarry after a certain period of time.  She said she “could not fathom the thought of her having a good time with another man while her husband was lost, in prison, and/ or suffering in another country.”  Remarkably, this amazing woman over 90 years young said to me “Who knows, he may still come home to me tomorrow!”

She relished in the military ceremonies and correspondence from the Department of Defense.  It helped give her fuel for living and the worthy cause of her husband’s sacrificial military service.  For over 50 years, this woman experiences heartbreaking disappointment, heartbreaking pain, and unwavering hope.   Freedom Cost(s).

Freedom cost(s) can vary depending upon the person and situation.  We will all experience July 4th weekend differently.  In our own way, let us remember freedom cost(s).  Happy 4th of July!

Ken Walden, UMR Columnist

Ken Walden

Ken Walden is an Air Force Chaplain Reservist and United Methodist Clergyperson. He is the author of Challenges Faced by Iraq War Reservists and Their Families.

Join the conversation....

  1. Dear Ken, Thank you for your thoughtful reminder that this Independence Day holiday is a time of remembrance of great sacrifice for many members of our military and their families. May God’s transformation of the world bring an end to such suffering. Your service to our military families is important to all of us. Thank you for bringing the love of God and the peace of Christ to a hurting world.

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