My American Heroes

Jenna

Jenna reading her essay

Here in the United States today is Memorial Day. While we normally spend the day having picnics and spending time with family and friends, what my family and I did this morning is what Memorial Day is really about. Rather than going to our town’s parade and remembrance ceremony, we headed down the road to my sister’s town.

 

Jenna, my 14-year-old niece, marched in their small parade. She was the first place winner in the VFW’s Patriot’s Pen Essay contest. During the ceremony at the VFW, she received a medal and read her piece on “What Freedom Means to Me”. Her words were eloquent and meaningful. In the essay, she talked about the death of a family friend who died in 2007 as the result of a roadside bomb while serving in Iraq.

Russell KurtzThat young man, Sgt. Russell Kurtz was not only a family friend, but Tom and my godson. His death, just days after his 22nd birthday, shook us and our community to the core. I can never again look at the fight for freedom in the detached way I viewed it on the evening news, as something that happens to “other people”. It is real and raw and heart-wrenching.

But the keynote speaker at the ceremony said that while 79% of people between the ages of 59-64 have close relatives who served in the military, in the 18-29 age group that number drops to 33%. Jenna’s essay won in the middle school category, but the VFW commander said there was not one single entry from the high school students. Without the personal connection, do our young people take their freedom for granted? Will they forget the price that has been paid over the generations to pay for and secure our freedom?

I hope and pray not. Today, I view Jenna as a hero for reminding her generation of what freedom really means. And after the ceremony, my husband, daughter, and I honored and visited the grave of the bravest American hero we have ever known.Russells grave

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