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The cost of freedom is high

ALBANY HERALD EDITORIAL: Today we honor those who died for our nation

This is the cost of war.

This is the day we have set aside as a nation to remember that cost.

Wars have been fought since before there were those capable of writing down accounts of them. There is no indication that they will go away, regardless of the great advances people have made. There always will be some despot, some power-mad leader, some friction between nations that will lead to violent conflict. As the world becomes a relatively smaller place with improvements in transportation and communication, those conflicts will become increasingly in danger of spreading out to larger theaters. We’d like to think that at some point diplomacy could completely displace violence in resolving disputes between nations and groups, but that’s a dream unlikely to materialize.

And that means, sadly, that the roll of individuals who we honor today will continue to grow as time passes. Regardless of whether a war is fought for a noble or an ignoble cause, the ultimate price that some military personnel will pay is constant. With war always comes death.

It is a great burden that we place on our brothers and sisters who serve in the Marines, Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard, this knowledge of the ever present danger of loss of life. Yet, when called upon to place themselves in danger on behalf of America, they do what they must. No one awakens with a desire to die for country that day, yet that is the price far too many of our fellow citizens have paid.

Their stories have been told and retold. Some have been recounted in articles, books or movies. Those that seem to touch us the most are the ones in which a soldier fights on facing insurmountable odds, and those in which a life is lost protecting the life or lives of one or more comrades in arms.

But the truth is, every one of these men and women who we have lost touches our lives. For every loss, a family back home is broken from the loss of a parent, a child, a sibling or a spouse. There also are costs we cannot know. If this soldier had not died in combat, what would he have accomplished with his life? Would he have gone on to hold political office and create legislation that improved others’ lives? Would he have returned to school and pursued a career that led to him making great scientific discoveries that improved everyone’s life? Would he have created a new product that had great demand, taking thousands of Americans off the unemployment rolls and boosting the economy?

We’ll never truly know what we have lost to war, nor what we will lose in the future.

But we can know this. The cost of freedom can be a high one indeed. When called upon by their nation, these brave men and women we honor today, some of the best among us, answered that call and gave everything they had to give. They died so those that they loved back home — as well as strangers they never met — would continue to live in the freedom that was bought with the blood of our forefathers nearly 238 years ago when they fought off the shackles of a foreign government.

They deserve our appreciation. They reserve our respect. They deserve to be honored. And on this day of all days, they deserve to be remembered.

The Albany Herald Editorial Board