Past remembered, honored

RAF MILDENHALL, England -- Another year has come and gone. For some, the year felt like it took forever; others felt like it flew by. But, no matter how long it felt, did you have time to get it all finished? By "it," I mean those New Year's resolutions. We make them with such conviction and enthusiasm, don't we? As if there were nothing that could stop us from getting them all accomplished. Then, life happens.

As you are making your New Year's resolutions for 2014, I would like to make a recommendation. While you're out touring the U.K. and Europe, take the time to visit our national memorials, museums and monuments that tell the stories of those who have come before us. Don't just be a casual observer. Take a vested interest in our heritage; participate in the stories. Remember each story tells of men and women who gave their lives so we can be free.

We all should take an active role in the past and our heritage. If we don't, how else are we going to keep those traditions going? We shouldn't just say it in our Airman's Creed, "I am faithful to a proud heritage, a tradition of honor and a legacy of valor." Get out there and see how our traditions started; see why we are faithful to our proud heritage.

To help me remember why I honor the past, I have a poem hanging on the wall (of my make-shift home office) written by Kelly Strong entitled "Freedom Is Not Free."

I watched the flag pass by one day,
It fluttered in the breeze;
A young Marine saluted it.
And then he stood at ease.

I looked at him in uniform,
So young, so tall, so proud;
With hair cut square and eyes alert,
He'd stand out in any crowd.

I thought... how many men like him
Had fallen through the years?
How many died on foreign soil?
How many mothers' tears?

How many pilots' planes shot down
How many died at sea
How many foxholes were soldiers' graves
No. Freedom is not Free.

I heard the sound of Taps one night,
When everything was still'
I listened to the bugler play,
And felt a sudden chill;

I wondered just how many times
That Taps had meant "Amen"
When a flag had draped a coffin
Of a brother or a friend;

I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands
With interrupted lives.

I thought about a graveyard
At the bottom of the sea,
Of unmarked graves in Arlington.
No. Freedom is not Free!

So, when you're out on your trips, tours and holidays, make time for an extra stop or two to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Take a vested interest in your history and participate in the stories of those who came before us and honorably served.