Share your personal trail of freedom

  • Published
  • By Col. Norman Brozenick Jr.
  • 16th SOW commander
Each year during our Fourth of July celebration, special memories of freedom flood my heart and mind.

I'm sure it's the same for you.

Beyond the din of faded fireworks, I can plainly see the faces of warriors past and present who selflessly purchased our freedom in the fires of combat.

I'll always remember the middle-aged gentleman who lived across the street from my boyhood home. Veteran of the famed Battle of Okinawa during World War II, upon occasion Mr. Jack would respectfully recount how his Marine unit closed with the enemy, fought and won.

He wouldn't tell his stories often at all. In fact Mr. Jack seemed to save them for "the Fourth." And each Independence Day as he shared memories of battles past, there was something different about Mr. Jack. He sat a little straighter, was a little more intense, spoke a little quieter, yet somehow seemed a little far away though he was right in front of me - as were his comrades, the uniformed heroes he spoke of so caringly.

I didn't understand it then, but I've come to realize he was revisiting hallowed moments from his personal trail of freedom. How about you? What moments mark your personal trail of freedom?

Perhaps they are from the Iranian desert, jungles of Central America, the island of Grenada or the Panamanian isthmus. Per-haps it's urban Beirut, the sea islands of the Philip-pines or the desert of Saudi Arabia.

A good number of our personal trails of freedom have crossed in Iraq, and include places like Baghdad, Mosul, al Hillah, Fallujah and al Qaim. Many of these same trails extend into Afghanistan's heights, where Kabul, Khowst, Ro-bert's Ridge, Mazar e Sharif and Heart are more than just names.

They are places of honor, where mortal tests of will and courage were won on the strength of an ideal. Freedom. Just like Mr. Jack did years ago, this Fourth of July I encourage all who so selflessly fight terrorism for us today to reflect on their personal trail of freedom. Then go ahead. Find someone who will listen and tell your stories proudly. And don't be surprised if you find yourself sitting a little straighter, feeling a little more intense and speaking a little quieter. And if your mind wanders a little far away while you caringly recount those who fought next to you and died beside you, it's okay.

You're probably revisiting moments from your personal trail of freedom alongside heroes whose faces you'll never forget. And remember those faces - we will.

May God Bless you, your family and the United States of America this Fourth of July. And thank you for being the kind of American heroes others long to be.