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Many have made sacrifices, and all have been important

July 18, 2005

By Jim Rosko

As a 30-year veteran of the Department of Defense, to include retiring from the United States Navy after 23 years, I have something to say following this July 4. It has been spawned by the infighting in Washington, D.C., the downward spiral of American values, the teenager next door who dons a T-shirt with a picture of our commander-in-chief that includes the words, "He isn't my president," and sitting here watching a movie classic, "From Here to Eternity." After having been on almost every continent of the globe, courtesy of the U.S. Navy, I can say with assurance, "God has surely blessed America." So it's high time we reflect.

As the song goes, all gave some, but some gave all. But from the Revolutionary War right up to the war in Iraq, the reality is: Not some, but many gave all. A good many in this area know that down the road in Sharpsburg is Antietam Battlefield, where the bloodiest day in our nation's history occurred. It all led up to saving our union, our beloved America. On that one day - Sept. 17, 1862 - there were 23,000 casualties, which included up to 4,700 dead. And in the days that followed, many more died of wounds or disease.

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Consider that Antietam resulted in nine times as many Americans killed or wounded as took place on June 6, 1944, D-day, the so-called "longest day" of World War II. Or consider Iwo Jima, where some 2,300 Marines were killed or wounded in the first 18 hours! The Battle for Iwo Jima would drag on for another month and cost nearly 26,000 lives. Yes, as Adm. Chester Nimitz said of those on Iwo Jima, which still rings true today when we think of those brave kids fighting in Iraq, "Uncommon valor was a common virtue."

I am reminded of what Tom Brokaw called the greatest generation. He referred to those of WWII. What has happened - and why do we as a nation (to include congressional leaders) undermine, if not denigrate, those who are now doing their best to preserve our freedom (that so many of us seem to take for granted while we go about our business at Wal-Mart or Ocean City or where-ever)?

As a hospital corpsman who served at the Philadelphia Naval Hospital in 1974, the main depot for amputees coming home from Vietnam, I beseech the people of this great nation to hold these heroes up high - whether it was a just war or not, they gave their all they answered the call and, unfortunately, were spat upon. Oh, do we owe them - big time!

Our nation, particularly the youngest among us, needs a history lesson at this time. Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence? Five signers were captured by the British as traitors and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured.

Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War.

So, at this time, take a few moments and thank the patriots who gave us our independence - for they paid a hefty price. They were risking everything, and they knew it. That is the meaning of the Declaration's searing last sentence: "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor." And that they did!

May you be challenged to familiarize yourself with such sentiments as John Wayne's, "Why I Love Her." Or Red Skelton's recital of "The Pledge of Allegiance." Or the latter stanza of "America the Beautiful":

"Oh beautiful, for heroes proved, In liberating strife, Who more than self, our country loved, and mercy more than life, America, America, God shed his grace on thee." Or learn of Sgt. Alvin York (of WWI) or Lt. Audie Murphy (of WWII), names that are sadly foreign to many of today's history teachers.

Learn of SFC Paul Smith - the first to be awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously, for bravery under fire during the current war in Iraq. Yes, Washington and Frederick counties, as you go about your business, remember the cost - and never forget how God has indeed shed his grace on thee!

Jim Rosko is retired from the U.S. Navy and lives in Boonsboro.

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