|Navy SEAL (Sea, Air, Land) Lt. Michael P. Murphy|
This holiday season, consider the gift of freedom our veterans and today’s servicemen and women have given our nation – communities, families and each one of us, individually.
It’s a reality veterans’ service organizations work tirelessly to honor throughout the year.
For instance, every November, American Veterans Centers brings heroes of wars past and present together for a weekend of remembrance, reliving epic battles that recall freedom’s price.
This year’s conference, sponsored by Washington Examiner, featured legends from Doolittle Raiders; Band of Brothers; Tuskegee Airmen; and Major League Baseball players who fought in WWII, including recently deceased Hall of Famer Bob Feller and many decorated veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and their families.
Their stories were profound.
Ed “Babe” Heffron recalled Operation Market Garden – when, at the height of World War II, he and his team parachuted into Holland to liberate the Dutch people from Hitler’s brutal totalitarian grip. His was the famous “Band of Brothers” – E (Easy) Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th parachute infantry, assigned to the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division – immortalized in the HBO series, based on Stephen Ambrose’s book, Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest.
|Dutch resistance members with troops of the US 101st Airborne in front of Eindhoven cathedral during Operation Market Garden in September 1944|
He’ll never forget that Dutchman, who compared losing his freedom to the day his mother “got pushed off a bike,” their only means of transportation. “When you hear the word freedom,” this deeply grateful Dutch citizen told Heffron, “think about losing it. It’s when you lose it that it means everything.”
Freedom? All Heffron and his buddies could think about in the plane over was: “What the hell am I doing up here? I could be back home having a soda or standing on the corner with the guys…”
Soda was no equal. “When you saw the faces of those Dutch people and the children,” Heffron intoned, “you knew (raising voice) why you were there, you knew why you did what you had to do. I’m telling you, if you ever get in that predicament, you’ll know why you’re there. Just the look on their faces was everything.”
Medal of Honor recipient Marine Colonel Harvey C. “Barney” Barnum, honored for his valor in Vietnam at the awards banquet, emphasized, “we’re still at war,” and offered “a prayer for those soldiers, seamen, airmen and marines who are on point tonight.”
He’s right. We should pray for those who are still fighting, and have fought, in Iraq and Afghanistan, who now suffer from the wounds of war. And, for those who have paid the ultimate price – heroes like Navy SEAL Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy, who died in Afghanistan on June 28, 2005, while trying to save his team on a mission deep in the Hindu Kush Mountains to find a key Taliban leader. After letting goat herders go, they soon found themselves outnumbered by Taliban forces, attacking from a superior tactical position. Lt. Murphy, in a final bid to save his men, entered the fighting space to call rescue forces with a clear signal – saying "Thank you," before hanging up, immediately suffering the fatal blow.
Lt. Murphy’s father Daniel recounted the heartwarming visit – a private Oval Office meeting – he and his wife Maureen had with President George W. Bush on October 22, 2007, the day he awarded their firstborn the Medal of Honor – the first of the present wars to be so honored.
“No matter how the press plays this,” the President told them, “you should know that the loss and the death of each and every one of my men effects me deeply.” Then, humorously, he proceeded to undress and put their gift – Michael’s dog tags – around his neck, then got dressed again, exclaiming, “OK, now we’re ready to go.” After the ceremony, breaking protocol, he “grabs us on the red carpet... squeezes us and says ‘Murphs you did good, but I… thought I did even better because I had Michael right next to my heart.’”
This holiday season, let’s return the gift of freedom Michael and his fellow troops, including those of wars past, have won for us – by praying for them and offering tangible assistance, as resources allow, to veterans service organizations such as American Veterans Center, USO, VFW, American Legion, Military Order ofthe Purple Heart, Iraq andAfghanistan Veterans of America,Wounded WarriorProject – among many others working to say “thank you.”