The price of liberty

By Scott Morefield

In May 1942, the U.S. Pacific fleet reduced to only three carriers by heavy losses at the Battles of the Coral Sea and Midway, the USS Wasp, having fought exceptionally in the Atlantic war, set sail to fight the Japanese in the Pacific.

After a hard fight at Guadalcanal, she was hit head-on by three Japanese torpedoes. Fires caused by the incredible amount of gas and oil released from the tanks by the direct hits spread quickly, and it wasn’t long before the ship’s fate was evident to all. My grandfather, Harding Morefield, had to jump into the ocean when his hair caught on fire. When Capt. Forrest P. Sherman gave the order to abandon ship, the only major delays were caused by crewmen unwilling to leave until every single wounded soldier was brought to safety.

In December 1944, when the foundering, desperate Germans took the Americans by surprise in the Ardennes by launching what would be their last major offensive of the war, a young infantryman named George Kain (my wife’s grandfather) was severely wounded. The units in the area having been caught by almost complete surprise, Kain remained in the snow for 12 hours before finally being rescued. He lost his leg in the battle, but 19,000 others lost their lives.

Throughout his life, Kain never once complained about his situation. In fact, he always said that he would gladly give his other leg for his country.

There are millions of stories like this, stories interwoven throughout the histories of millions of American families. Most of us have ancestors who were willing to fight and die for the freedoms that we all enjoy. From the patriots who risked their lives, families and honor to found a new nation based on liberty to the soldiers today who willingly sign up for tour after tour to fight an enemy that doesn’t wear a uniform or adhere to the laws of war, courage and sacrifice define our nation.

Our grandparents were heroes to us, of course. Our generation can hardly imagine the sacrifices they endured. But they, along with most everyone who survived that war and others, wouldn’t tell you that. They weren’t the heroes, they would say. They’d say they were lucky, because there really wasn’t any rhyme or reason to who made it home and who didn’t. The real heroes were the ones who gave all they had to give in places like Normandy and Bastogne, Belleau Wood and Flanders, Manassas and Gettysburg, Bunker Hill and Yorktown. Crosses in their honor are planted in fields all across Europe, and in Lee’s old farm in Virginia. Their lives were cut off during the flower of their youth, their deaths mourned by countless family members who would never see them again.

The real heroes never came home.

It is they who we remember this weekend. As we fire up the barbecue and enjoy an extra day off work, it is fitting to at least remember the heroes who gave everything so we could live in a country founded upon and defined by liberty. And as we gradually give up those liberties in the name of security, may we remember that freedom is something that, once lost, is never freely given by those in power.

It is always born of blood.

“Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined.” – Patrick Henry

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” – Benjamin Franklin

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