Two days before my wedding, my dad received a call. He was being called up on a surprise deployment for the first anniversary of 9/11. He would leave in two days. By God’s kindness, this was extended to four days and he was able to stand on the alter and lead my husband and I through our wedding vows before leaving to serve. He is a Chaplain- and as long as I have been alive- he has been in the military. I am 32.
My mom could tell you the same kind of stories about her dad. My grandpa spent the better part of her growing up years deployed to Vietnam. He has four daughters and they all have moments where dad couldn’t be there.
My sister has a similar story. She and my brother-in-law tried to get pregnant for several years without luck. Then one day, they found out they were pregnant. The next week- literally the next week- he was deployed to Afghanistan. His third deployment to the battle zone since graduating from West Point nine years ago. My little sister is the most brave woman I know. As are most military spouses. He deployed and she journeyed through her very first pregnancy alone. Stationed half way across the world from our family, with her husband in eminent danger each and every day, she grew a baby. In the military, you get something called R&R, rest and relaxation. It’s a two week escape from war. He chose his R&R for two days before her due date. He flew from Afghanistan to Hawaii- and I promise you my sister coaxed that sweet baby girl out of her the second he landed on Hawaiian soil! They knew they were on borrowed time. He watched his daughter come into the world. He spent two weeks with her. And then? He flew back to the war zone of Afghanistan.
No new momma should have to figure out motherhood alone by day and pray that her husband will come home alive by night. But she did it. With grace. Strength. And bravery. She did what was required.
Freedom is never free. It always requires sacrifice. And sacrifice hardly follows our plans. It doesn’t check to see if anyone is getting married, buried or having a baby. It doesn’t inquire about whether this is good for the kids or good for the spouse or even good for the man or woman being asked to serve and put their lives down on the line. And still, for hundreds of years, men and women have voluntarily said that this experiment in freedom is worth it. If, as Thomas Jefferson wrote, we truly hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; that among those are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; then someone has to bear the cost of those liberties both at home and abroad.
As we celebrate the birth of our nation and this grand experiment in freedom and self-governance, I am so grateful for the men, women, children and families who understand that freedom is never free. To those who offer themselves up as willing and ready- no matter when the call comes in- we thank you for protecting our inalienable rights. Life. Liberty. And the pursuit of happiness. We remember and celebrate you, and the many men and women who have served America before you, as we remember and celebrate our own freedom. Thank you for paying for the cost.
“Our great modern Republic. May those who seek the blessings of its institutions and the protection of its flag remember the obligations they impose.” ~Ulysses S. Grant