As American blood continues to nurture the Tree of Liberty around the world, it seems appropriate that all Americans rededicate themselves to the obligation and responsibilities of promoting a free society by treating our veterans with well-deserved respect.
Whether one is inclined to view the Tree of Liberty from the top branches looking for future “pie in the sky” or one focuses on the subsoil roots looking at our past heritage, each ring in the tree trunk provides a witness to the sacrifices and hopes of the American veterans of each generation and each ring teaches a lesson upon which the next must build.
In the newest rings of the Tree of Liberty, we find American men and women serving on all continents both keeping the peace and engaged in war. It is their glorious honor that the same troops and equipment fighting the remnants of the Taliban in Afghanistan are also flying at the tree tops relief supplies and medical evacuations for earthquake victims in Kashmir.
It is an ironic truth that some of the same children being fed by American troopers and carried to medical facilities today have had older siblings shouldering Russian-made rifles against Americans just yesterday and probably again tomorrow.
Older rings in the Tree of Liberty, still include infected knots from where the required struggle to stop Communism’s venom fell victim to the poisonous disrespect shown to American service members returning from Vietnam and Indochina. Our troops hoped that they were returning home, but home had moved and left a tattered forwarding address.
The cries of those forgotten POWs and MIAs still echo in the leaves of the Tree of Liberty. The napalm-singed bark still smolders. Still, it is not too late to heal the wounds and scars on the Tree of Liberty.
Each fall brings red, gold and brown leaves from the top of the tree down to the dark moist soil of its roots. This is not unlike the veterans from Korea and World War II. These veterans are almost gone, yet they still contain the living memories of those foot soldiers, airmen and marines who offered their lives and spent their youth fighting the cold of Inchon, the heat of Iwo Jima or the mayhem of the Battle of the Bulge.
We have heard the salutes that they were our “best and brightest” and yet they often slumber in unmarked graves, dirty veterans hospitals or forgotten in nursing homes. Their medals are tarnished and their stature is bent yet the bugle’s “Taps” still brings proud tears to their eyes.
Do the fall-colored leaves, knotted bark and blood-drenched roots of the Tree of Liberty forget 11/11/11 because of 9/11? Is it possible that the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month of the “War to End All Wars” has been forgotten because of the siren calls caused by the cowards on 9/11?
In remembering the cowardice of those who had taken over the cockpits, Americans must never forget the heroes on the plane headed toward the Capitol, those in the Pentagon or the courage of the uniformed professionals headed up the floors of the burning Twin Towers.
Veterans Day must remind all Americans that the Tree of Liberty is taller than the Twin Towers, stronger than the most hardened terrorist and grateful beyond words or memory for all those who have served, are serving or will serve to make liberty an earthen reality and aerial nest.
The red, white and blue of our flag still covers our beloved dead in the soil, still decorates our public buildings, home and churches and still flies proudly above the Tree of Liberty.
Thank you, American veterans.
Dave Carey is the mayor of Soldotna and an Army veteran.
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