Freedom Isn't Free

Signing of Armistice Aboard the USS Hyman
Off the Coast of Pohnpei

Photo Credit: (c) 1945 John H. Neas, Jr. 

Over 70 years ago, my father stood aboard his ship as World War II ended. He and his shipmates had liberated the island of Pohnpei. There was a story he told about the landing that still rings in my ears each time talk turns to the ideals of freedom, liberty and justice for all.

On the island, the Japanese controlled everything.  The Etscheit's, who owned a coconut grove, were placed into an internment camp. Carlos and Simmone Etscheit had three daughters, Yvette, Renee and Monique. In the evenings, the Simmone sewed scraps of material together in what appeared to be patchwork quilts.

On the day that the USS Hyman liberated the island, the three sisters ran to the beach with their mother and father waving their mother's handiwork. Under the noses of their guards, Simmone had sewn together a US and Belgian flag. She believed with all her heart that one day, the allies would liberate the island. Her faith was realized.

On the 50th anniversary of the liberation, my father had the opportunity to return to the island with some of his shipmates. During the different gatherings and celebrations, the flag that was sewn by Simmone and brought in joy to the sailors by Monique,  was unveiled once more. The islanders had framed it, a reminder of fearless faith.


Pohnpei Sunset 1995
Photo Credit: (c) 1995 John H. Neas, Jr.

During these days of turmoil, I think of Dad and of how he not only survived Normandy but also the war in the South Pacific.  I think or howe, but for a split second in time, he would have been killed by a kamikaze during one of the attacks in the South Pacific on the Hyman. I think of how he raised me to believe that his time in the Navy was a gift to me and to all those who live free, today. I think of how angry he would be to see the rights that he fought for being trampled on and the Constitution being ignored.  "Freedom isn't free," he would say.

With all this on my mind, I must continue to be fearless, like Simmone Etscheit and her daughters. I must continue to be tenacious, like the many who have struggled to bring us the rights and privileges we enjoy. I must continue to believe that we CAN make a difference. 

Blessings to all!

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