In 1776, as America was in the midst of her own struggle with freedom, a wise man once said, “He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from opposition; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach himself.”
Those were inspiring words by Common Sense author Thomas Paine as he expressed his strong defense of the colonies’ independence from England 227 years ago. Liberty and freedom was worth fighting for in 1776, and as we’ve seen in recent months — though difficult to understand — the same is true today.
Our history books retell the bravery of some of our nation’s early heroes like George Washington, Patrick Henry, and John Paul Jones, who in the face of opposition and a dominating ruling power, held strong to their vision of liberation and democracy. They didn’t know what the future would hold for their 13 colonies, yet they were willing to risk their livelihoods, even their lives, for the mere hope that democracy could be established.
Fortunately for us, it worked. And because of that experience, America has always come to the aid of those who also yearned for freedom. After all, it is the responsibility of those who are free to help those who are oppressed seize this God-given right. Without freedom, we have nothing.
Freedom is priceless, yet it comes with a high price. Ask the veterans of Normandy, Korea, or Vietnam, and they’ll tell you that freedom is never free. In World War II, America lost 400,000 soldiers, in Korea, 30,000, and in Vietnam, nearly 60,000. We must never think for a moment that these men died in vain. They gave their life defending freedom.
As the daughter of a 30-year Army veteran, the sister of an officer in the Naval Reserve, and the niece of several WWII soldiers, my respect for America’s military runs deep. I learned at an early age that soldiers sacrifice more than basic inconveniences that most civilians take for granted. They are asked to sacrifice their very lives, if necessary, to serve their country. Needless to say, that’s quite a request, yet they are willing to do it because they love this country and they cherish freedom.
Over the past four months in the deserts of Iraq, a new generation of soldiers is learning the heavy cost of freedom. Over 250 members of our U.S. military have valiantly given their life to aid in the liberation of the people of Iraq. When duty came calling, they stood tall and proud, and said “I will go.”
And on April 7, as U.S. tanks rolled into Baghdad, they brought freedom with them. I can only imagine how the Iraqis felt as that fresh breeze blew through their dusty streets. Then on April 9, when cameras captured the first scenes of independence in Baghdad’s center square, I wonder how many emotions were taking place in the hearts of those men, who with bare hands, began chipping away at the statue of their former leader. I didn’t know those men, but somehow, I knew exactly what they were feeling — their first taste of freedom. Where are those men today when we need to see their faces, hear their stories, and feel their gratitude?
In the midst of the daily attacks and bombings on our military and peacekeepers in Iraq, sure it’s easy to become disillusioned with this foreign cause called “freedom.” But during these times when it seems that the cause is not worth the price, we need to remember how we got our start 227 years ago. America paid a high price for her freedom — the blood of her soldiers.
As we mourn the deaths of our servicemen and those who lost their life in Tuesday’s bombing of the United Nation’s headquarters in Baghdad, we must never think for a moment that these men and women died in vain. They died bringing freedom to a place where there was no freedom. To our children and grandchildren who will one day read about them in history books, they will be heroes.
— Angela J. Phelps is an Assyrian American whose mother is a native of Baghdad, Iraq. Phelps is the producer of Concerned Women for America’s national radio program Concerned Women Today.