Comment: Celebrate our freedom by honoring those who served it

Every generation has its challenges. Our chance to thank the Greatest Generation is slipping away.

By Jeremy Steiner / For The Herald

Every Independence Day holiday hopefully has a special significance for all Americans.

This 245th birthday is unique in the wake of the challenges the covid-19 pandemic caused and should be a time for extraordinary events, special celebrations and joyous rejoining of friends and family.

Besides the festivities and fireworks, America’s anniversary also holds a great tradition of remembering those who fought for the freedoms we’re so fond of, yet frequently forget throughout the year.

This Fourth marks the 76th year since the world was freed from the forces of fascism and Nazism by the men and women known as the Greatest Generation. We are living with the last remaining heroic few who served and survived World War II. Of the estimated 16 million service members who fought, less than 2 percent of this small, shrinking select group remain.

In his book, “The Greatest Generation,” Tom Brokaw wrote: When the war ended, more than 12 million men and women put their uniforms aside and returned to civilian life. They went back to work at their old jobs or started small businesses; they became big-city cops and firemen; they finished their degrees or enrolled in college for the first time; they became school teachers.”

One of these brave men from the greatest generation was my Grandpa, Art Olsen, who celebrated his final Fourth last year. In his house hung several World War II memorabilia and flags. It’s also where he passed away at age 97 after a long life of serving his country, years of celebrating the national holiday and raising a large family in the nation he loved.

During the beginning of the war, President Roosevelt honored the holiday on July 4, 1941 by stating: “In 1776 we waged war in behalf of the great principle that Government should derive its just powers from the consent of the governed. I tell the American people solemnly that the United States will never survive as a happy and fertile oasis of liberty surrounded by a cruel desert of dictatorship. And so it is that when we repeat the great pledge to our country and to our flag, it must be our deep conviction that we pledge as well our work, our will and, if it be necessary, our very lives.”

As millions strove, sacrificed and succeeded in saving America, let us all take time on this holiday to again make that pledge to honor a nation that gives us so many liberties, opportunities and securities.

With all our political battles today, don’t many of the current controversies seem so small in comparison to the enormous challenges our country once faced in its history? With all our faults and failures, our country continues to provide the privilege for protest, athletes the ability to actively announce their angst and the right to voice any objection no matter how trivial.

Following the former fateful year, fighting the battle to beat the coronavirus pandemic brought us together as a nation. May this Fourth unite all Americans in recalling what was really achieved during World War II and other struggles. Make time to remember how this country began as an experiment based on an idea, fought for its independence and became the greatest nation in history. Our exceptionalism not only endured, but is the envy of the entire world.

And finally, during the Fourth with flags flying in cities everywhere, let us never forget nor feel the need to shun the flag and what it stands for; but rather show gratitude for the blood shed years ago for our freedom, the selfless sacrifice over centuries and the lives lost for our long-lasting liberty.

Jeremy Steiner lives in Edmonds and is executive producer of the “The Michael Medved Show” and a local real estate broker.

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