Freedom is Not Free - Remembering our nation's heroes

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. James Hecker
  • 18th Wing commander
As we all set out to enjoy this Memorial Day weekend, please take a moment to honor the heroic men and women who served our great nation and paid the ultimate sacrifice to ensure our way of life.

I also ask that you keep safety at the forefront of you mind when traveling around the island, or getting in the water.

One of the first well-known Memorial Day-type observances occurred on May 1, 1865, in Charleston, S.C., after the Civil War. Nearly ten thousand people gathered to commemorate the dead and most brought flowers to place on the burial field.

One hundred and forty eight years since that first Memorial Day, the cost of freedom remains equally high. Those of us who have raised our right hand and swore to defend our great nation with our lives know this very well.

Throughout World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, our brave Airmen, Sailors, Soldiers, Marines and Coastguardsmen have been called time and again to defend the liberties and freedoms our forefathers secured.

Since 2001, nearly 6,600 of America's sons and daughters have given their lives in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Their legacy of service, devotion and extraordinary courage in the face of danger is a testament to the American spirit and all we hold dear.

Even as we honor our fallen comrades, we know that they are not alone in their sacrifice. Our fallen heroes leave behind husbands and wives; sons and daughters; brothers and sisters; mothers and fathers. As we honor our fallen warriors, remember these families for whom the grieving never ends. Keep them in your thoughts and prayers.

Memorial Day weekend also signifies the start of summer. In fact, the majority of Air Force fatalities happen during the summer months and we cannot afford to lose a single one of you. So, please make safety a priority for you and your family. Take an active role in keeping your fellow Wingmen safe and set the example for safety on and off duty.

From the Hecker family, we salute each and every one of you and your families for your contributions and sacrifices to keep our nation free.

Thank you and be safe!