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Column: Thank You, Veterans

What a country.

In the lead-up to Veterans Day, I read an article about the first American naval warship named after someone born in Mexico.

Sergeant Rafael Peralta immigrated to America with his family and grew up in San Diego. He joined the Marine Corps the day he obtained his green card.

He was killed in Fallujah. His unit was clearing a building and as he entered a room, he was shot and fell to the floor just as an insurgent tossed a grenade through the window. Sergeant Peralta rolled over and covered the grenade with his body, saving the lives of all those around him. 

When they cleaned out his room after his death, they found three things on the wall: a copy of the Constitution, a copy of the Bill of Rights, and the certificate of his graduation from Marine Corps boot camp.

Once again, what a country. We do have plenty of issues that need to be addressed, but we can’t forget to celebrate the glories as well. Sergeant Peralta in particular joins an American tradition. The most highly decorated unit in the American Army in World War II was the 442nd Infantry Regiment, which was comprised of Japanese-American soldiers, many of whom had relatives imprisoned in detention camps because of doubts about their patriotism. In the Civil War, it was Irish immigrants, people who fled their homeland because of terrible famines and oppression, who saw signs everywhere that told them No Irish Need Apply. The Union Army wasn’t as fussy, and the Irish soon proved their right to be Americans. In the very beginning of our country, a Frenchman, Lafayette, and a Prussian, Baron Von Steuben, helped build a rabble of farmers and shopkeepers into a weapon that defeated the British armed forces. Over and over again throughout our history, it has been our newest citizens who’ve proved that they know all there is to know about being an American. Sadly, the price most often paid for American citizenship has been blood. Thomas Jefferson said it first and best when he said, “The tree of liberty must often be refreshed by the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural fertilizer.”

In this world we live in, there is no such thing as a free lunch. There is always a price to be paid. 

For anything

I’m not talking about adjustable-rate mortgages or 60-month car loans. I’m talking about how the price of a child is nine months of discomfort followed by a lifetime of worry and concern. I’m talking about the fact that the cost of serving on a school board is dreading phone calls after 9:00 p.m. I could give 100 other examples, but you get my point. What I can’t wrap my head around, what is always baffling to me, is that for something as valuable as our freedom, our citizenship in this wonderful country, for 90% of us the price has been paid by someone else.

You know, I get tense if someone picks up the lunch tab. I just don’t know how to handle knowing that my rights and privileges as an American are simply a gift from someone else.

This is a wonderful country. That didn’t happen by accident. This week try to thank the people responsible, and for the rest of the year, try to deserve it.

Copyright 2015 Brent Olson

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