Someone has to tell these people
By Gordon Garnos
Communities across South Dakota are preparing to commemorate
this nation's most significant observance, Independence Day. But in
the very wake of this important day patriotism does not seem to be
playing as important of a role to far too many people. Someone has
to tell these people that our freedom in this great land isn't free.
TRAPPINGS of patriotism are beginning to be unfurled in most
communities across South Dakota in preparation of the Fourth of
July, just a couple of weeks away. We will soon see American flags
of all sizes, military memorabilia from several wars, placards on
cars identifying the participants in the parades and red, white and
blue banners paying homage to veterans. There even may be special
speakers in your town on that big day.
symbols, underneath those patched and sometimes a little tight
uniforms in the parade, lie hearts of men and women being touched by
memories. They know first hand that the price of freedom isn't free.
While our nation prepares to observe Independence Day, far too many
of us haven't the foggiest idea what independence and freedom are
all about, that our independence and our freedoms we enjoy in this
great land of ours are so intertwined.
FROM that Revolutionary War to todayıs veterans of the current
war on terrorism will not be marching in those parades to glorify
the horrors of war. Rather, they want to educate those who are not
familiar with exactly what prices have been paid by those who have
worn the uniform.
The Fourth of
July observance, in a sense, is to brighten the future and not to
illuminate the past. At the same time, as I have written so many
times, it is so important that we learn from our past and that we
remember those sacrifices made by so many people.
and other outings are in the planning stages for the annual
Independence Day and that is as it should be. But not at the cost of
not participating in whatever your community may be planning. They
are planning something, aren't they?
IMPORTANT THING about observing the Fourth of July is that it is
a tremendous opportunity to educate those people, especially our
younger people, who, sadly, too many of them could care less what
the day means, let alone know about the sacrifices made so that day
can be observed year after year since 1776.
Being a kid
growing up in a small town West of the River I remember my dad, not
just on the Fourth of July but every holiday observance, going out
to the sidewalk in front of his bakery, first cleaning out a hole in
the concrete, then planting our American flag with its long wooden
pole there for the day of observance. Then, it would be reverently
rolled up and put away to await that next time.
My dad wasn't
an exception to displaying the flag. Those holes in the sidewalks up
and down Main Street all held the American flag on those days as
well. I wonder if those holes and their purpose are still there?
the importance of freedom weren't so much said in our household, but
it was lived pretty much throughout the year. So, I guess, it was
pretty well ingrained in me by the time I was in uniform and sent
overseas to England.
MY first Fourth of July away from home, but it was my inaugural
first of May to observe the communist holiday. The area of England
where I was stationed was heavy in coal mines, steel mills,
socialists and communists. The front gate was locked and all passes
were denied that day. My freedom was pinched and I didn't like it.
the next move was to Germany. It wasn't during the hot war, but the
Cold War then as we had to be prepared for whatever came over the
Still, I had
the opportunity to see a smidgen of what Dachau was all about during
World War II. It was one of the several Nazi concentration camps
where millions of Jews and other "undesirables" lost both their
freedoms and their lives. Dachau, when I saw it was just a remnant
of, or just a small piece of what was kept to remind the world about
the importance of freedom.
Independence Day approaches, I am reminded of what a person much
smarter than I had to say: "It is not the preachers who make
possible freedom of religion, nor reporters who mandate freedom of
the press. Protest organizers have not made possible freedom of
assembly, nor have political figures given us the right to vote.
and women, journalists, protesters and politicians are mere
exercisers of these various liberties. It is the men and women who
have made huge sacrifices throughout our history who have fought to
preserve the freedoms we all enjoy."
That is what
the Fourth of July is all about. Be proud to wave your flag. Someone
has to tell those people who don't understand that freedom isn't
Gordon Garnos was long-time editor of the Watertown Public Opinion and
recently retired after 39 years with that newspaper. Garnos, a
lifelong resident of South Dakota except for his military service in the
U.S. Air Force, was born and raised in Presho.