Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Cost Of Freedom

The Associated Press has this story today about the Velez family, of Lubbock, Texas. Their story will not bring you to tears, but will fill you with pride, as well.

On November 13, 2004, Army Spc. Jose A. Velez was killed in action during the battle for Fallujah, Iraq. He had been a member of the 1st Cav. out of Fort Hood, Texas. He was 23 years old. After his death, he was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

His younger brother, Andrew, was also in the Army. After the death of his older brother, Andrew was offered the chance to avoid combat duty, but he declined. Andrew Velez wanted to return overseas to fight for his country. "You always do it for your buddy next to you," Andrew Velez told his father.

In June, the family's home in Texas was burglarized and Jose Velez' combat medals were stolen. They were replaced by the DoD just this past Monday. On Tuesday, the Velez family learned that Andrew had been killed in Afghanistan. He was 22, and had three young children.

When I read this story, I was reminded of a letter Abraham Lincoln once wrote (which was showcased in the movie Saving Private Ryan). A mother in Massachusetts had reportedly lost five sons in combat during the Civil War, and President Lincoln was asked to write her a letter of condolence on behalf of the Unites States Army. Here are the contents of that letter:

Executive Mansion,Washington, Nov. 21, 1864.

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 word of mine which should attempt
to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain
from tendering 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
After the letter was printed in the newspaper and made famous, it was learned that only two of the sons had been killed in combat. One had deserted the Army, one died a prisoner of war, and one was later honorably discharged. The mother, Mrs. Lydia Bixby, promptly destroyed the letter, since she was a Confederate sympathizer and hated Lincoln vehemently. Copies of the letter have been widely circulated, and many collectors paid handsomely for a forged copy, believing it to be authentic.

The above paragraph notwithstanding, the pure emotion and heartfelt respect in President Lincoln's letter cannot be argued. And it certainly applies to the Velez family some 140 years later.

May they find peace.

3 Comments:

Anonymous TEvans said...

WONDERFUL POST, MIKE. I VISIT THESE FAMILIES IN MY THOUGHTS OFTEN, AND TRY TO NEVER FORGET THE SACRIFICES THAT THEY MADE.

:*

7:49 PM  
Anonymous Lisa @ Two Babes said...

Amen babe.... amen.

7:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a great post, good job! I hope their family finds peace, too.

11:32 AM  

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