Thank you for your service; freedom is not free

Thank you to all who have served, are serving and will serve – allowing this great country to be what it is.

We can all lament about what it is becoming, or what we all think might be around the corner, but we are privileged to be citizens of the United States of America.

Nineteen of us returned Saturday evening from the Jefferson County Christian School sophomore class trip to Washington D.C.

What a time we all had.

Not only were all 16 kids a testimony to God, their families, school and communities (as were the three chaperones) during three long days and short sleeps, but, in one way or another, everyone had their emotions stirred.

Whether it was Arlington National Cemetery, the Holocaust Museum, the Evening Parade at the Marine Barracks, Mount Vernon or the Lincoln Memorial (or anything in between), it is easy to see why we should be proud of our country.

As the 19 of us were waiting to leave Arlington National Cemetery, a group of military personnel walked in front of us (to an ovation from everyone standing around) and they all had American flags in their backpacks.

The gentleman in front of the pack loudly announced, “Every headstone in Arlington will have a flag by the end of the day.”

That, folks, is over 400,000 headstones.

The military personnel place their foot at the base of the headstone and place the flag at the heel of their boot.

This ensure rows of perfectly straight flags.

That came on the heels of watching the Changing of the Guard, another must when you visit our nation’s capital.

It’s a moving experience, to say the least.

I never understood how people still believe the Holocaust never happened, but after seeing the Holocaust Museum, I really don’t understand that point of view.

The Evening Parade at the Marine Barracks is must-see.

Held at the oldest post in the Corps, it happens every Friday from May 3 through Aug. 30 from 8:45 p.m. to 10 p.m.

According to the site, “A one hour and fifteen minute performance of music and precision marching, the Evening Parade features “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band, “The Commandant’s Own” The United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, the Marine Corps Color Guard, the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon, Ceremonial Marchers, and LCpl. Chesty XIII, the official mascot of Marine Barracks Washington.”

The parade that has been in existence since 1957 is free of charge.

To witness that kind of discipline, that kind of teamwork, that kind of heart is almost beyond description.

The Marine Barracks was founded by President Thomas Jefferson and and Lt. Col. William Ward Burrows, the third commandant of the Marine Corps, in 1801.

Gen. James F. Amos, the current commandant of the Marine Corps, lives on the base in a house that was finished in 1806.

There is no greater country than this one.

And, if you don’t like it, please leave at any time.

The men and women of the armed forces perform one of the greatest acts of selflessness in this world.

There is no whining about playing time in the armed forces.

There are no parents walking up to a general and asking, “why isn’t my son or daughter on the front line more often?”

Could you imagine that conversation, though?

Memorial Day is observed in honor of the nation’s armed services personnel killed in wartime.

Local observances became widespread throughout our one nation after the Civil War, a four-year battle, ended with more than 600,000 casualties.

They all died, on both sides, for freedom.

Yet, as it engraved at the Korean War Veterans Memorial, “Freedon Is Not Free.”

And, at that memorial, more than 2,500 images representing the war are sandblasted onto a 100-ton granite wall.

There are 19 stainless steel statues between 7-feet-3 and 7-6 tall that depict a squad on patrol. There are figures from the Army (14), Marine Corp (3), along with one Air Force Forward Air Observer and one Navy Corpsman.

On May 30, 1868 thousands of people gathered at Arlington National Cemetery to honor the dead and observe Decoration Day. It was a day to decorate the more than 20,000 graves of the dead from the Civil War in the cemetery.

After World War I, Memorial Day was changed to honor the dead from all American wars.

The United States Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday in 1971.

In the fall of 1864, President Lincoln was informed that a Boston widow, Lydia Bixby, had lost five sons in the Civil War. President Lincoln wrote to her:

Executive Mansion

Washington, Nov. 21, 1864

To Mrs. Bixby, Boston, Mass.

Dear Madam,

I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts, that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.

I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.

I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom.

Yours very sincerely and respectfully

A. Lincoln

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at