[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/05/25/art.jesse.strong.on.patrol.jpg caption="Marine Sgt. Jesse Strong."]
Proud Gold Star Mother of Marine Sgt. Jesse Strong, Killed in Action 1/26/05
Growing up as a young girl in a large suburban town in the 60's and 70's, I had no experience honoring Memorial Day as it should be recognized. I have no memories of being introduced to proud veterans who had served our country, and I had no knowledge of, or appreciation for, what my freedom had cost thousands of men and women throughout history.
How dramatically my life was changed when my son graduated from Marine Corps boot camp just two weeks before September 11, 2001, and I suddenly realized that our freedom is defended and protected by brave, proud, young soldiers like my Marine son. I was learning to not take for granted so many things about our lives that we as Americans don't even think about...our form of government, our freedom to worship, to shop, to be educated, to work, and live quiet peaceful lives in our own homes...
One week before the first Iraqi election in January of 2005 my son called us from Iraq to let us know that he would be busy securing the polls for their anticipated election day. It was our last conversation, as four days later headlights drove up our driveway in northern Vermont on a cold January night, and two solemn looking Marines got out and stood at our door. We knew instantly why they were there and what they had come to tell us.
Our brave son, Marine Sgt. Jesse Strong, along with three other fine Marines, had been killed by a rocket propelled grenade in an ambush during a night mission.
While we were experiencing our first agonizing days and nights of grief, and as we were anxiously waiting for our son's body to be returned to us from Iraq, the Iraqi people tentatively stepped out of their homes for the first time to vote and take some of their first baby steps of freedom. Our son died helping an oppressed people to gain that freedom, and he died proudly serving his country.
As winters are cold In Vermont, and the ground is frozen in January, we had to wait until May to bury our son's body. We chose Memorial Day of 2005 for his burial, and many of his Marine Corps comrades, who served with him in Iraq, were able to attend and be his pallbearers.
Now on Memorial Day, I not only remember our son and his ultimate sacrifice for freedom, but the many men and women who have served and are presently serving our country for the cause of freedom in the world.
The precious cost of freedom is utmost on my mind and heart every day as we mourn the loss of our son. Our freedom is awesome, and it should not be taken lightly by those of us who enjoy it's blessings. Memorial Day is a reminder to us as Americans to be thankful for the men and women who have given their greatest treasure - their lives - to protect us and to defend us, so that we can lead abundant lives of our choosing. May we never take that price for granted.
Remembering our troops... and how you can help...
Filed under: Memorial Day
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