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Reflections on America's 236th birthday

Today America celebrates its 236th birthday. As you enjoy this national holiday, with your family and friends, I ask you to think about the following "cost of freedom," as freedom is not free.

America's finest sons and daughters serve in an all-volunteer military. We have now experienced America's "longest war," since the 9/11/01 attacks on American soil. As with all past generations of "warriors," each understands that they could live out a quote upon a grave marker at Arlington National Cemetery, which says, "Not for fame or fortune ... Not for place or rank ... Not lured by ambition or goaded by necessity ... But in simple obedience to duty as they understood it. These men and women Suffered All ... Sacrificed All ... Dared All ... And Died."

Unfortunately, as America's population grows, more and more citizens have no contact with our sons and daughters who serve in harm's way. During World War II, 11.2 percent of the nation served in four years. During the Korean War, 3.8 percent of the nation served in three years. During the Vietnam War, 4.3 percent of the nation served in 11 years. Since 9/11/01, only 0.45 percent of the nation have served in the global war on terror. Over time, fewer and fewer citizens have shouldered more and more of the burden to keep us free. Congress now has less than 10 percent of the 435 U.S. representatives and the 100 U.S. senators who have served in the military. In World War II, the average military personnel was exposed to 40 days of combat. In the Vietnam War, that rose to 240 days of exposure to combat. During this current War, that has risen to 320 days, in a given year, of exposure to combat. Then add on multiple tours into a combat zone, by most of our military personnel. My only son has now been in combat for a total of 36-plus months, as one of our Rangers; and, many of our career special ops warriors have more than 60-plus months in combat.

Yet, they "volunteer" to endure suffering and sacrifice, to ensure that we citizens are safe, secure, clothed, fed, among friends and have not had to sacrifice anything. The 5,000-plus families that have had to deal with a son or daughter who was KIA (killed in action) in this current war, truly understand service and sacrifice. Many mothers and fathers will not get to see their sons or daughters grow into the elderly population. Many wives and husbands now have to deal without their spouse. Many children no longer have their mother or father to watch them grow up and then enjoy grandchildren. Then add the cost of 35,000-plus WIA (wounded in action) and the one American who is still listed as POW/MIA (Prisoner of War/Missing In Action) and, hopefully, you will understand that freedom is not free.

America is a Christian nation and the whole world knows we are exceptional. Our sons and daughters serving in the military have earned your deepest gratitude, thanks and you honoring them on America's 236th birthday. They serve to ensure you have the opportunity to celebrate July 4th in your own way. But always remember that, since 1775, multiple generations of our sons and daughters have been willing to live out Jesus' words in John 15:13, which states, "No greater love has a man than this that he will lay down his life for his friends."

Enjoy America's 236th birthday!

Tommy Clack is a Vietnam veteran who lives in Mansfield. Recently retired from the Conyers office of the Georgia Department of Veterans Services, he now works full-time in support of the Walk of Heroes Veterans War Memorial at Black Shoals Lake in Rockdale County.