This morning I attended the small town funeral of a World War II veteran. He served in the Air Force B-24 Bomber Squadron, 8th Air Force, England. Watching the presentation of the flag to his widow, a British war bride (they were married 66 years), I was deeply touched once again by what these brave Americans did way back then. Hearing Taps being bravely played by his 15-year-old granddaughter, a local high school freshman, put it over the top for me. It was honor of a higher level as she nailed it and then collapsed in tears as the last tone from her trumpet hung in the air. I happened to be standing near her and took her into my arms and held her sobbing frame while telling her that were it not for men like her grandfather, I might have grown up speaking German. She looked at me and smiled through her tears. I hope she understood what I was trying to tell her. Indeed a moment to preserve.
Often, when I have the blessed opportunity to speak at gatherings here in this great country, I ask if there are veterans, but especially WWII veterans present. Why? Because I want them to know that I remember. I grew up in Norway raised by parents who lived through five years of horror during the Nazi occupation. And though I was born what seems to be an eternity away from that horrible era, it was only 17 short years that seemed like a blink of an eye to those who lived through it all. The small town I was born in was the home of the factory that produced Heavy Water, a vital component sought after in the race for the atom bomb. So, needless to say, the presence of the Gestapo as well as the Norwegian Resistance movement was large and intense. (If you are interested, Heroes of Telemark, the 1963 movie featuring Kirk Douglas, is based on the true story.) My grandfather was in the Resistance and hid in the mountains for months on end, while the Gestapo took his sons hostage and put them in labor camps in order to flush him out from hiding. He could not come out as he knew the price for surrender was too high, even higher than that of his children’s well-being and even their lives. At the recent funeral of my mother, one of my uncles stood up and talked about it all for the first time that I can remember, and I was stunned at some of the information that came to light, the price they all paid, yet the determination to fight for freedom at all costs. It was something my parents drilled into our heads, almost daily, while growing up. Stories of my dad smuggling horse meat home to cook, cut and stolen from a Nazi commander’s portion, and tales of my mom’s encounters with the Allied bombs that rained over the friendly little town – bombs aimed at saving the world, not to kill; however, kill they did. Now, so many years later, I am ever grateful for the upbringing and heritage of a family devoted to liberty and freedom, to honor and sacrifice, and I often wonder about the providence of being born into such a family and where it takes one along the path of life.
So, today, at the funeral, I was overwhelmed by the honor shown this precious man and his family. After all, how can you not be when standing in the bitter cold North Dakota wind, the soldiers with great precision folding Old Glory and passing on not only his memory but to remind the grandchildren and great- grandchildren of the exceptionalism of the American soldier and what is required of him/her in the quest for liberty. Granted, this man came home, farmed and raised a large family, but many returned in a casket, and even more bodies never did return to the soil of their birth. We must never ever take their service for granted, nor stop passing on the stories of history to our children, no matter how far removed it may seem. Humanity has a way of repeating history, for good and for bad. It is up to us to make sure it is for the better for the coming generations.
We need leadership from the local to the state to national level that understands the blessing that is America, the fundamental beauty of the charters set forth by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, and the duty that comes with it.
I believe leadership that understands America and her charters and blessings cannot but exude patriotism as they share their passion in the public square. I cannot say what the future holds for any of us and much less who will reside in the White House come January 2013, and out of honor for this family on this day, I will not be as political as I would generally be in regards to the 2012 presidential race. However, suffice to say that we need, and I sincerely hunger for, patriotic, proud leadership in this great nation. Several years back, I swore an oath to America becoming a citizen of this great country. And while doing so, having pride in the fact that my roots and upbringing come from a nation who has stood with America through over a century of partnership for freedom and liberty. Sure, there are differences, but the core belief in liberty is deep in both nations and the willingness to sacrifice similar throughout history. The words of my late father urge us to always “stand up for what you believe in, never be silent, and fight for those who cannot fight for themselves”, and my late and non-political mom’s advice after September 11 was, “never trust any bad guy, do not let anyone give you a Chamberlain message of peace in our time as long as bad guys are out there; tell your American President to always get the bad guy before he gets you.” Their advice rings loud and true in my soul. Being an American comes with great responsibility, and that oath I took meant something to me. Combine that with the heritage with which God has blessed me, and I will not stay silent, nor will I apologize for what I believe, that God did shed His grace on thee, America. Hope comes from Providence. That is nothing for which to apologize! And we will not apologize for it, not now and not in the future. This belief in America is nothing for which to apologize!
Although I fear for America and the world today, (we have leadership on many levels that cannot see clearly that America is truly exceptional) we are a nation that has always lent itself to fight for the cause of liberty across the world regardless of cost. I have great hope that we can see America renewed, revived, and restored to the values that made her great. We must find and elect leaders who will insure that a future of freedom and prosperity will be provided this precious 15-year-old granddaughter who, by sounding the trumpet today, gave the honor so well deserved for her grandfather’s service. I, for one, was reminded once again today that were it not for America and its staunch allies, my path of life would indeed have been different and may not have included freedom.
Editor’s Note: We bring you this blog post as part of our Memorial Day remembrance of all those who faithfully served our country. It was written by guest blogger Janne Myrdal, who at the time of writing served as state director for Concerned Women for America of North Dakota. It was originally posted April 19, 2011. To read more on Memorial Day, click here.