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  • Saturday, May 26, 2018

    We are blessed because America is worth dying for

    Freedom Is Not Free image
    by Rena Nessler, Commander

    American Legion Department of New York

    Rena Nessler

    Commander Rena Nessler

    The memory of fallen heroes blesses us.

    At first, I was going to say their memory haunts us. But no, they bless us. Whether you are a Gold Star family member, a battle buddy, or a friend, you remember their voice, their laugh, the way they walked.

    All you have to do is look around and you will see their legacy. That legacy is us – all of us Americans gathered in a free society with the common purpose of honoring our fallen veterans.

    The point is that these men and women lost their lives in order to ensure our freedoms.

    Did you know that more than a million U.S. heroes had their lives cut short while fighting in wars since the American Revolution? They are a diverse group.

    Take, for example, a brash young World War I aviator, Frank Luke, who was the first pilot to receive the Medal of Honor. He shot down 18 enemy aircraft in 18 days, and, after being pursued by eight enemy fighters, was shot down himself. He pulled out a pistol and continued fighting on the ground before being shot to death.

    Fast forward 50 years, where First Lieutenant Sharon Lane became the only female nurse to be killed by enemy fire during the Vietnam War. She was caring for her wounded heroes at an evacuation hospital in Chu Lai — and protecting them from rocket and mortar fire. In a letter home, she wrote of one attack, “We got all of the patients under the beds that we could and put mattresses over the ones in traction…Very interesting place but hardly anyone here is scared. It is just like part of the job.”

    Yes, the heroes we remember on Memorial Day are a diverse group. Some died because of enemy fire, like Lieutenant Lane when a rocket blasted through her ward. Others died due to the risks of military service, such as the four Marines killed when their helicopter crashed in California last month.

    But all of these heroes are held together by the common principle that America is a nation worth dying for.

    To these fallen heroes, we say thank you. Thank you for the freedoms you have given us. We are here because of you.