A Memorial Day letter
Editor’s note: Following is a letter that Tom Kelly wrote to his father, Richard Kelly, who, along with his four brothers, served in World War II. Richard Kelly is cousin to Emogene (Griffith) Croner, wife of Howard Croner who lives in Estherville.
Howard Croner thought it appropriate that this message be shared with our readers this Memorial Day.
When you’re reading this letter it is my hope that you are on the plane heading toward Washington, D.C., to view the World War II Memorial. I know how much that would mean to you and all others on your plan.
You, Howard, Don and those on your plane were part of the “Greatest Generation” that said “no” to Hitler when he wanted to take over the world and answered your country’s call when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.
Dad, I am proud to say that you and your four brothers all served in World War II at the same time. You served in the Southwest Pacific. Claude served in North Africa. Kenny served in the China-Burma-India theater of war. Lefty served in France and arrived via the Normandy landing. Jerry served on the North Sea. I am sure Grandpa and Grandma felt a sense of pride but at the same time were worried and prayed for a safe return.Thankfully, their prayers were answered and you all made it back home.
I am also proud and thankful to Don, Howard and all other veterans on your plane and elsewhere who served our country and to those servicemen and servicewomen who continue to serve our country today. My father-in-law, Robert “Doc” Lommen, also served in World War II and my brother, Brian, served in the Air Force during the seventies.
As more and more war veterans pass away there are fewer and fewer left to carry the torch of remembrance. We must pick up that torch and help others learn, know and remember the true price of freedom!
There are many ways to teach the values of patriotism and citizenship. As county attorney, I have chosen to go to schools throughout Wright County and speak to government and law classes. I talk to the students about our great country, the opportunities they possess because they live in the United States of America, what it takes to be a good citizen and why there is a need for the law and more importantly why there is a need to respect the law.
I ask the students what is the greatest country in the world? They respond the United States of America. I ask them why it is the greatest country in the world? They respond because of the many freedoms we have.
I tell them the Untied States Constitution and the Bill of Rights guarantee all citizens the following rights and freedoms: The right to bear arms, the right to a jury trial in a criminal case, the right to an attorney in a criminal case, the right against self-incrimination in a criminal case, the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, the right to due process, the right to equal protection of the law, the freedom of speech and press, the freedom of religion, the freedom to peaceably assemble, the freedom to pursue a livelihood and happiness and most important of all FREEDOM itself!!
I ask the students what does the average citizen owe to society for all these rights and freedoms? I tell them pay taxes and remain law-abiding. Is that asking too much? I tell the kids that’s a heck of a deal and because of those brave Americans (like you here on the plane today) who were willing to serve it is as good a deal today as it was when we first got it back in 1787 when our Constitution was ratified and in 1791 when our Bill of Rights was passed.
Although the average citizen only has to pay taxes and remain law-abiding to enjoy these rights and freedoms, I remind the students that these rights and freedoms would not have been possible except there were people willing to die for them. There can be no freedom unless one is willing to die for freedom. Indeed, these freedoms came at a cost, a high cost, the ultimate cost – LIFE ITSELF!!
In World War I 116,000 Americans lost their lives, in World War II 400,000 Americans lost their lives, in Korea 37,000 Americans lost their lives, in Vietnam 58,000 Americans lost their lives, in Iraq so far 4,500 Americans lost their lives and in Afghanistan so far 1,065 Americans lost their lives.
I want the students to know and remember the true price of freedom so they will never forget the sacrifices that came before them. I tell them that because of those who have been willing to serve they have a shot, a chance, at the “American Dream”. They can be whoever and whatever they want. That’s all anyone can really ask for is a shot, a chance. Indeed, our veterans on the plane and all veterans, including those who paid the ultimate cost, should be proud because of you, your children, your grandchildren, your great-grandchildren and those after have a chance to live in the greatest nation in the world and have a chance of making something of their life.
Personally, I have never been in trench warfare during World War I but I am grateful to those have. I have never been in an amphibious landing craft heading for the beaches of Normandy during World War II but I am grateful to those who have. I have never known the HELL of Korea but I am grateful to those who have. I have never had to fight in the jungles of Vietnam but I am grateful to those who have. I have never fought in the deserts of Kuwait/Saudi-Arabia but I am grateful to those who have. I have never been subjected to the urban terrorist guerilla warfare (IED’s) of Iraq but I am grateful to those who have. I have never fought in the caves of Afghanistan but I am grateful to those who have.
Dad, I hope you made it on the plane. I know how much it would mean to you to see the World War II Memorial. I wish you all a safe and memorable trip.
May God bless all of you, may God bless those who have served and are serving and may God bless the United States of America!!
Your loving and