City Council Corner
For the love of country: freedom is not free
By Mayor Kelvyn Cullimore, Jr.
The summer months are a time when celebration of our freedoms is at the forefront. On Memorial Day we remember not only family members who have passed on, but more particularly those who served in our armed forces. Flag Day in June allows us to patriotically display the Stars and Stripes as the emblem of freedom. Independence Day is the pinnacle of patriotic celebration when we remember the birth of our nation and the sacrifices required to establish it. Shortly thereafter we celebrate Pioneer Day, commemorating the establishment of the State of Utah by early pioneers. Summer truly is a time to reflect on the special freedoms we enjoy as citizens of the United States of America and the State of Utah.
While visiting the countries of Jordan, Israel and Egypt recently, my wife and I became even more profoundly grateful for the freedoms we enjoy here and the relative peace that permeates our existence. While there is always room for improvement and positive change, you need not travel far to understand how blessed we are as a nation and a people - problems and all. With all her flaws, America is still the land of the free and the home of the brave - the greatest nation on earth.
About 10 years ago Laurie and I visited the country of Myanmar (Burma) where my parents were doing humanitarian work. One evening we had a dinner with high-ranking government officials. We sat with a man who was living a life of privilege among a very oppressed people. Yet, all he could talk about was the United States. I finally asked him why he was so curious about the USA when he was living such a privileged life in Myanmar and wanted for nothing. His response was that every government official in that room would surrender his "life of privilege" for the opportunity to take his family to the United States. I was quickly reminded that many of the freedoms I take for granted are coveted even by ranking officials of foreign nations.
In Washington D.C., my wife and I visited many of the monuments honoring those who have fought for our freedoms throughout history. At the Korean War Memorial is found this inscription: "Freedom is not free." No truer words were ever inscribed. I was humbled as I visited the various memorials. The Lincoln Memorial commemorated not only Lincoln, the great president, but the more than 650,000 lives lost in the civil war. World War II claimed more than 420,000 lives. Fifty-seven thousand people gave their lives in the Korean War and approximately the same number was lost in the Vietnam War. Lives have continued to be lost in military actions in the Gulf War and Afghanistan. During my term as mayor, I know of two Cottonwood Heights families who have lost sons fighting for this country. Any such loss is painful and personal despite the nobility of the cause.
The lives lost are only part of the story. Equal numbers of service personnel were injured in each war. Family members of the killed and injured were also affected, some feeling the effects for generations. Indeed, freedom is not free. Literally millions have suffered and sacrificed fighting for our freedoms. To those who have served in the military, who have lost loved ones in the fight for freedom, who have experienced firsthand the physical or mental ravages of war on family members, we say thank you. But an expression of gratitude seems insufficient.
How can we show our love of country and community? Let me make a few simple recommendations.
As maddening, inconvenient or uninteresting as it may seem, be an active participant in the political process. Never miss an opportunity to exercise your right to vote whether it be for the local school board or for President of the United States. And be an informed voter.
Take pride in your community (an expected piece of advice from the mayor). Participate in neighborhood and community activities. Get to know your neighbors and build the bonds of community and friendship. Consider volunteering to help with community activities or agencies that serve the community.
Be patriotic. Some may feel patriotism is an artifact of the past illustrated in a Norman Rockwell painting. Patriotism is not something we show only after an event like 9/11. It should be part of our everyday life. Salute and display the flag. Study history. Teach our children and grandchildren about patriotism.
Our freedoms are precious and won at a great price. We must not take those freedoms for granted or they will ultimately be lost. It will require each of us to do our part. As we celebrate the birth of our country and the freedoms we value, I hope we will all recognize how fortunate we are. Let’s do our part to build our communities and express gratitude for those who made, and still make, our freedoms possible by their sacrifices.