As the Fourth of July approaches, I tend to think about our founding fathers, who risked everything to bring forth this nation from the yoke of British rule.  In retrospect,the odds of them winning were laughable, yet they persevered through Valley Forge and endless other brutal hardships to do it.  Those brave patriots were succeeded by generations of American men and women who fought and died in so many more wars to protect our freedoms.  The D Day invasions at the beaches of Normandy, the Bataan death march, the Ardennes Forest, Iwo Jima, Hamburger Hill, Iraq, Afghanistan- it never seems to end, and it probably never will.
The conditions these soldiers had to endure are almost unimaginable today, yet in WW II, many recruits lied about their ages to be eligible.  Entertainers and celebrities also did their part. Mel Brooks, David Niven, Audrey Hepburn, Lee Marvin, Elvis Presley, Ice-T, Adam Driver, Morgan Freeman, and others served their country.  The actor Eddy Albert, piloted a landing craft in the Tarawa invasion. Low tides had stranded marines on the reefs, who were being slaughtered. Albert single handedly took the craft back, under withering enemy fire, and rescued 47 marines. For his bravery, he received the Bronze Star.  I couldn’t help but wonder what it would take to receive the Silver Star, or the Medal of Honor, considering Albert’s actions.  They were “Giants in the Earth” (from the passage in Genesis).  O.E. Rolvaag wrote a book with that title, about the struggles of Norwegian immigrants who were early pioneers on the American frontier, and cut from the same cloth, I would say.
Today, many celebrities in entertainment and sports are trashing the country and system that made them rich and famous. “Adversity” has become not having the latest cell phone, or currently not being able to frequent restaurants and bars.  Among so many other aspects, the Corona Virus has spotlighted the fact that human nature includes an unwavering capacity to take things for granted. Can you recall saying, just a few months ago, “Oh, I’m so thankful that we can go out to eat in a restaurant?” Or, “Isn’t it a blessing that I can go to the dentist?”  I didn’t think so.  In a burst of Orwellian totalitarianism, many governors and other officials now routinely hack away at our civil rights, defying the Constitution, dictating our every action, all in the name of “public safety.”
To coddle whatever sliver of sanity that remains, many of us have turned to taking long walks.  I was hiking on the salt marsh trails in Quincy, MA, when I came upon a small cemetery hidden by ancient oak trees. A plaque identified it as a Civil War burial ground for the Sailors’ Home formerly on the site. It read:

“These survivors of our most deadly war
Lived and worked together, and
Eventually were laid to rest together
In the soil they once tilled.”

Respectfully wandering among the neat rows of white marble headstones, I came across something very special. It was the gravestone of John Griffiths, and it stood out as being newer, with crisper lettering than the others. Above his name was a star, and below it the hallowed words, MEDAL OF HONOR. Here in an all but forgotten tiny cemetery by the tidal marshes, lay buried a Civil War sailor, who had been awarded the Medal of Honor!  Research revealed that Griffiths, holding the rank of “Captain of The Forecastle,” had served aboard the USS Santiago de Cuba. He led a small boat attack on the Confederate Fort Fisher in North Carolina, under relentless cannon and rifle fire, and with total disregard for his safety. With only a few of his men left alive, he got inside the fort, and subsequently delivered valuable reconnaissance to his general on shore.
Nearby is a park named for one PFC William Caddy, another Medal of Honor recipient, killed in action at Iwo Jima.  Caddy, pinned down with his unit under Japanese machine gun fire, took shelter in a shell hole.   He then threw his body over a live grenade, saving the lives of his fellow Marines.  In all wars, only 3,525 Medals of Honor
have been bestowed, to “One who is prominently distinguished by gallantry and intrepidity, risking loss of life above and beyond the call of duty.”
Seeing these memorials provided a much needed reality check.  On this Fourth of July, remember these two heroes and  the thousands of young men and women who paid the ultimate price for your freedom.  “Those who trade liberty for security will have neither.”  –  John Adams.          Think about it.

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