Thanking a WW2 Veteran for Our Freedom

-by Kevin G. O’Leary
 
 Late last year I got an email from my cousin in Oregon, IL that our uncle would be taking an honor flight to Washington, DC with other World War 2 veterans.  The Honor Flight Program has been taking place across the country for a number of years.  Volunteers, businessess  and organizations have generously given their time and resources to thank those who made the sacrifice for our freedom. 
 
On November 3, my mother’s elder brother Bob Chamberlin took one of the honor flights from the Quad Cities Airport in Moline.  The veterans are flown free of charge to the nation’s capital to personally visit the monument made in their honor.   One of the highlights of the return flight is the “mail call.”  Friends and relatives of our heroes were asked to write a letter to our special veteran that is delivered to them onboard the plane.   Below I will share the letter I wrote for our Uncle Bob.
 
 
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Dear Uncle Bob,

I am thrilled to learn you are taking this flight of honor.   It is important that people enjoying the freedoms in 2011 do not forget that these freedoms do not come with a lot of personal sacrifice by young men and women who answered their country’s call to service.  I thank you for serving long before I was even born to ensure that I could grow up in a free country.

Today, nearly seventy years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, generations have grown to embrace peace when possible but be prepared to fight when necessary.   But, now  these nations are our stanch allies.  It would have been unimaginable that I would one day be working in Japan.      Incidentally, until last week I was working in Sasebo City which is was a huge center of Hirohito’s Imperial Navy and where Japan’s leaders projected their horrific tyranny.  Now, it is the site of huge Dutch Theme Park and Flower Kingdom.  How  peaceful is that!  

Washington, DC is an amazing place.  I’m not sure which of the three airports you will land at.   I have lived there twice from 1981-1984 and again from 1986-1988 when I was a Navy petty officer stationed at the Naval Air Facility at Andrews Air Force Base.   You will be able to see many memorials and and landmarks each which is a historical building block of what made the United States what it is today.  It was amazing experience to live in Washington during that time.   Ronald Reagan was president then.  When I was in the Navy in Naval District Washington, I was able to participate in some of newer monument dedications and events.  One was the final farewell funeral parade for General Omar Bradley another was the Vietnam Veterans Memorial dedication as well as the the  Tomb of the Unknown where a fallen solider from the Vietnam war was briefly interred.  A few years later, he was positively identified and and returned.  It’s hard to see everything, but you can never get tired of visiting our capital.  

In 2011, there are many things to grumble about when talking about our country.   We can openly and critically question our president, our leaders without fear of punishment.  In contrast, these were liberties that Hirohito, Hitler and Mussolini’s subject could not even imagine.  As a result of their defeat by brave World War II veterans like yourself, you not only guaranteed our freedoms in the US, but brought freedom to nations of oppressed people.  We all owe you and your fellow veterans a debt of gratitude.   I thank you for being there for me and our country.

Enjoy your flight.  Your nephew and all your kin are cheering for you!

Kevin

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Today many young men and women are making the huge sacrifice in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Seventy years from now will the next generation remember what they did for us?  Let’s hope so.  Freedom is never free.

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