– by Mary May Larmoyeux – As many debated whether or not to stand for our national anthem, I thought about the price of freedom and remembered a story I wrote back in 2005. It is fiction, but based on some truth.
I wonder, have our children and grandchilden been told about the sacrifices and suffering that those who went before them paid? Do they even begin to comprehend what freedom cost? Do I?
The Price of Freedom
“The Major,” Shannon’s father, was quick to silence her when The Pledge of Allegiance was recited. He didn’t care if she whispered to her younger brother or barely giggled. And it didn’t matter if she was at a noisy high school football game or a dignified public assembly.
When the grand old pledge was recited, he expected his children to be quiet. If they weren’t, his stellar blue eyes pierced their hearts. Oh, how they knew what that look meant! They instantly obeyed his silent orders.
The Major’s right leg was shattered when he stepped on a land mine during World War II, and his only brother was killed during the Battle of Normandy. He understood the price of freedom. He never talked much about the war, but his life-long limp was a constant reminder. Shannon’s mom often said that the pain of war was just too heavy for his soul to share.
The Major did share that he had been part of the honor guard when Dwight Eisenhower became the President of the United States on January 20, 1953. President Eisenhower took his oath on two Bibles: George Washington had used one and the other was a gift from Eisenhower’s mother.
The President’s message must have meant a lot to Shannon’s father because he saved a newspaper clipping that contained every word of the inaugural address. Once in a while, his rough hands retrieved an old wooden box that he kept under his bed, and he pulled out the musky newspaper.
Sometimes The Major called Shannon and her brother to his side and said, “Don’t ever forget the men and women who gave their lives so that you could be free.”
Then, with a gravelly voice, he read out loud some of Eisenhower’s words: “In the swift rush of great events, we find ourselves groping to know the full sense and meaning of these times in which we live. In our quest of understanding, we beseech God’s guidance. … We must be willing, individually and as a Nation, to accept whatever sacrifices may be required of us.”
General Eisenhower knew that he did not have the ability by himself to lead this great nation during World War II. His heart must have been heavy when he called thousands of mothers’ sons to risk their lives for freedom. Yet, as he said, “In the final choice a soldier’s pack is not so heavy a burden as a prisoner’s chains. … A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”
Whenever The Pledge of Allegiance is recited today, Shannon finds herself mimicking her dad. If her children start to softly whisper or giggle while the grand old words are recited, she gazes at them with The Major’s look, and they obey her silent orders.
When she recites, “… one nation under God,” she remembers that the red stripes represent heroes like her father and uncle. She says, “We, indeed, live in the home of the brave and the land of the free.”
God bless The Major. God bless the children. God bless America!
Why I stand
Today I vow to tell my grandchildren why I stand when the national anthem is played and The Pledge of Allegiance said. It has a lot to do with price of freedom that so many paid. My husband’s father, an actual major in the U.S. Army, stepped on a land mine during World War II. It shattered his leg.
I am grateful for not only the sacrifices of my father and father-in-law, but also the other countless men and women who paved the way for our freedom. And we honor their legacy when we stand for The Pledge of Allegiance and national anthem.
We never have been or will be a perfect nation. But rather we are an imperfect people who have a tremendous opportunity to continuously work together for a better tomorrow.
Connect with your grandchildren: Ask them what The Pledge of Allegiance and national anthem represent. Then tell them what they mean to you. You could do this in a multitude of ways: in person, over the phone, in a handwritten letter, by an email or text.
Post and photo © Mary May Larmoyeux. All rights reserved.
If you would like some creative ideas for grandparents, check out The Grandparent Connection: 365 Ways to Connect With Your Grandchild’s Heart. Paper and electronic versions are available. (Great for parents, aunts and uncles, too!)