The cost of freedom cannot be measured

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 8, 2008

As we come off the celebration of our nation’s birthday, it is important to remember that freedom is not free. While these words may sound clich/, we need only think of the thousands of brave men and women who have fought and died to protect our way of life and spread the cause of freedom around the world.

There are poignant examples of this sacrifice on display at the Statehouse. The Ohio Veterans Plaza, which is located on the east lawn of the capitol building in downtown Columbus, is a simple, yet moving tribute to the men and women from Ohio who have served in our nation’s armed forces.

The memorial includes two stone walls inscribed with letters written by Ohio soldiers to their families in the midst of war, as well as fountains, ceremonial flags and plaques depicting the seals of the five branches of the armed services.

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In addition, I encourage all residents of the 17th Senate District to visit the Statehouse to view The Lima Company Memorial: A Remembrance of Spirit & Choice, a series of life-sized paintings created to honor the 21 fallen Marines and one Navy Corpsman from the Ohio-based Lima Company, who lost their lives in 2005, while serving in Iraq. Lance Corporal Aaron Reed from Ross County and Lance Corporal William Brett Wightman from Clinton County are two of the soldiers memorialized.

Anita Miller, an artist from Columbus, worked with the families of each fallen hero to create the exhibit, which also includes an ever-living candle, boots and a space for visitors to leave mementos. It was unveiled on May 23 during a private ceremony and is on display to the public through Veterans Day weekend in November.

On April 30, I attended the annual Holocaust Memorial Ceremony at the Statehouse to remember the more than 6 million people who were exterminated by the Nazi regime during World War II. We listened to a Holocaust survivor describe how freedoms were eroded in Germany during that period, explaining that if someone was labeled as different or conflicted with the beliefs of the government, they were murdered. What is shocking, particularly for those of us living in America, is that this erosion of liberty happened in one of the most socially and culturally advanced countries in Europe.

As we have seen with Hitler and the rise of other global enemies, unfortunately, there are evil people in this world. Yet, America has prevailed all these years thanks to the heart, strength and selflessness of the men and women who have fought and died to defend our values and ideals.

In fact, the framers of the Declaration of Independence — our Founding Fathers — risked almost certain death to further the cause of freedom and democracy. Several of the 56 men who signed the historic document had their homes ransacked and burned. Some signers were eventually captured by British forces and tortured before they died. While many others died bravely on the battlefield of the Revolutionary War. All these men were courageous patriots whose spirit has lived on in the generations of veterans who have continued the fight to preserve our independence.

Thanks to the bravery and selflessness of those who came before us, as well as the men and women who are currently defending our country around the globe, America is not a place where freedom is controlled by the government — it is inherent in every citizen of this country. However, we can never let ignorance, laziness, apathy or a lack of courage prevail if we hope to guard this freedom for future generations and preserve the ability of every American to pursue happiness.

John Carey is a member of the Ohio Senate and represents the 17th District.