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Memorial Day memory: Freedom is not free

IMG2242903HI (1)Every Memorial Day is made more poignant to me by the memory of U.S. Army Specialist Eric Ramirez.

I didn’t know personally the 31-year-old soldier who died Feb. 12, 2004 when his patrol was attacked near Baghdad, Iraq – but I covered his military funeral and burial for the newspaper I managed in Florida.

Eric’s dad was a bilingual pastor and the mayor of a central Florida town, when his son, a San Diego sheriff and father of two, was set to return home just a month before he was slain.

Over 200 mourners packed the 190-seat church, while 200 more outside under an American flag at half-mast watched the service on monitors.

Eric’s grieving wife joined military officers and friends and family from across the country to talk about his commitment to God and about his love for his family.

He was said to be a “man of action” who will be remembered for his service to his country. Almost expected, said one, is the bravery, that young people have exhibited in times of war.

It was a school board member’s comments about living in a free nation that caught in my heart, however. Glancing down at Eric’s flag-draped casket, and talking about responsibility, he said, “Freedom isn’t free.”

Freedom isn’t free.

It’s the sacrifice of the men and women who have fallen in times of war. It’s the sacrifice of men and women who have been willing to fall. It’s the sacrifice of men and women who have put their lives on hold for something bigger than themselves, to devote themselves to the security of our nation.

Clutching my camera and trying not to intrude upon the family’s private moments, and yet heeding their wishes for me to be there—I felt my heart tear with theirs at the realization that they will live with Eric’s sacrifice—forever.

My service was only a drop in the bucket of time, filled to overflowing with the other gushes and drops of others. Eric’s time cannot be refilled or repaid. We owe his family a debt of gratitude that cannot be repaid.

And it reminds me of another debt we cannot pay. Jesus took the sin of the world on His shoulders. Only through grace is redemption and salvation made possible for all mankind.

In this season of remembrance and reflection, think on these things: Huge sacrifice, and no repayment on our part. Just grace.

The original story I wrote appeared is here

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May 28, 2014 · 2:46 pm