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Posts Tagged ‘Freedom’

by Linda Medler, Board of Directors, Operation Homefront Brig. Gen. (ret.), USAF

I have been in the military for most of my life. I enlisted in the Marines out of high school, transitioned to civilian life to have children, while still serving in the Marine Corps Reserve. When I was ready to return to active duty, I was accepted to Air Force Officer Training School, and served in the Air Force until I retired with the rank of Brigadier General.

Over that time, I have served with many who gave their lives in defense of our nation, including those lost while I was serving at Hill Air Force Base, where we were always deploying airmen to Iraq and Afghanistan.

In Iraq, we lost three airmen in one month to an IED attack, and a few months later, we lost another. As a leader, that is something you never get over.

When it hits that close, and you are in a leadership position, you have to look inside and say, ‘How do I help my organization and my unit go forward and recover from this — to lose four airmen on a single installation?’

To ensure that they would never be forgotten, a group of us from Hill Air Force Base entered the Air Force Installation Excellence Award Program, which comes with a cash prize to improve quality of life across the installation. We finished as one of the top award winners, and used a portion of our prize to build a Memorial Park at Hill Air Force Base in Utah as a way to memorialize the four airmen who died while serving our country.

I will never forget that Memorial Day when we dedicated the memorial. Airman and families of the fallen gathered together to grieve, to remember, to unveil the monument.

There is not a Memorial Day when I do not think back to that dedication and the Memorial Park that will forever honor the legacy of these fallen heroes of the 75th Air Base Wing.

I urge all Americans to take part in honoring those we have lost by joining the national moment of remembrance. You can participate by pausing for a moment of silence at 3 p.m. local time on Monday afternoon.

In memory of those we have lost, and in honor of those who proudly serve, please join me in standing with our nation’s military heroes.

 

 

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carnivalblog1

Surprise!

It was a total surprise. Military kids Ryan, age 8, and Johnily, age 11, had no idea where they were going as they left Ft. Hood that day. You can imagine how their eyes must have gotten bigger as the cruise ship came into view. And how the excitement increased as they boarded the beautiful vessel, reading the words Carnival Freedom along the side.

The name of the ship was aptly chosen…because those who protect our freedom were about to be given a grand celebration!

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It has been a tough few years for Marily, John and the kids, as Marily has battled breast cancer.

Army Major John Considine and his wife Marily were excited when they were chosen to attend Celebrate Freedom, a night planned by Carnival Cruise Line and Operation Homefront, to honor military families and welcome the ship to its new homeport in Galveston, Texas. “We had never been on a cruise ship, the kids thought it was amazing!” said Marily.

But the night was even more special because of the years that came before that night. Along with the difficult sacrifices military families have to make, Marily has battled breast cancer for four years. And one of their favorite songs, “I’m Gonna Love You Through It,” is sung by Martina McBride, who performed in a special outdoor Carnival LIVE Performance on the top deck.

“We were only 3-4 rows from (her),” said Marily. The beautiful weather made for a perfect evening and they were able to dance together.

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Christine Duffy, President of Carnival Cruise Line, John Heald, Senior Cruise Director, Carnival Cruise Line presenting Tim Farrell, Chief Operating Officer and Interim CEO, with a $100,000 donation help military families.

Carnival organized the pierside event for hundreds of military families who got to spend one night on the cruise ship, enjoying all the best:

  • entertainment (music, dancing, comedians, video arcade and more),
  • food (complimentary food and cocktails, from Guy’s Burger Joint (created with Guy Fieri) to lobster at dinner and everything in between),
  • fun (hot tubs, dancing waiters, ice cream kiosks, comfy rooms) and
  • the cruise ship experience (fresh air, beautiful environment, free kids camp, friendly staff)

And the celebration got even bigger when Carnival President Christine Duffy presented a $100,000 check to Operation Homefront, “so you can continue to do the great service that you provide today for military families.”

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We are honored to be able to say “Thank You” to our military families in such special ways, thanks to great companies like Carnival Cruise Line.

For the Considine family, they were touched by all of the non-military families on board who took the time to thank John for his service. “The appreciation (from Carnival and the other guests) was wonderful and nice to hear.”

As for Ryan and Johnily, who is a semi-finalist for Operation Homefront Military Child of the Year, they enjoyed unlimited amounts of ice cream, pizza at midnight (just because they could), fun in the hot tub, the arcade and the theatre dance show. “As much as they explored, they were still unable to see everything,” said Marily.

“We would like to thank Carnival for this opportunity and it was nice to see the ($100,000) donation by them to Operation Homefront.”

The family capped a night under the stars watching a “dive-in” movie on the Lido Deck while their kids swam in the nearby hot tub. We wish them many more nights (and days) of happiness together.

View more pictures from the event.

Read the full press release.

Operation Homefront is extremely grateful for partners like Carnival Cruise Line who not only help us honor and celebrate military families but also provide much needed emergency financial and other assistance for military, veteran and wounded warrior families.

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By Catherine McCarthy

Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!’ cries she
With silent lips. ‘Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

-Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus, 1883

On October 28, 1886, President Grover Cleveland unveiled what would become the quintessential symbol of freedom recognized around the world: the Statue of Liberty.  Seventeen years later, Emma Lazarus’s poem would be inscribed in a plaque at the base of the statue, becoming America’s invitation to the oppressed and downtrodden of the world to come and start anew.

As quoted in the New York Times, statue historian Barry Moreno explains “It was,” he recalled, “built to pay tribute to the United States of America, the Declaration of Independence, American democracy, and democracy throughout the world. It honored the end of slavery, honored the end of all sorts of tyranny and also friendship between France and America.”Only later, “letters were written home, word of mouth, taught people that you would see this wonderful goddess in New York Harbor when you arrived in America to welcome you.”[1]

My grandfather, Petr, was one of the huddled masses, gazing upon this symbol of hope as he arrived at Ellis Island after being liberated by Allied troops from a German “re-education camp” during World War I. As a young teen in the Ukraine, he and his friend had been captured by Austro-Hungarian troops when they wandered away from their village, curious to see the battle raging not far from their homes.  They were sent to a camp where young men like them were trained to be returned and act as spies for the Central Powers.  But before their plans could be put in action, Allied troops advanced on the camp and liberated my grandfather and the others who had been stolen from their homes.

As the Allied troops interviewed the boys to find where they were from, they were surprised to hear my grandfather say, “Rhode Island”.  My grandfather had been born on American soil, just prior to his parents returning to the Ukraine, and he misinterpreted their question as where he was born. Because the war still raged in the Ukraine, and because he was an American citizen, my grandfather was put on a ship to America.

He arrived on American soil virtually penniless, and because he was a citizen, he was not eligible for the assistance that was provided to new immigrants.  He immediately sought work, and became a window washer on skyscrapers.  I can still remember visiting him and my grandmother and playing with the red wax pencils he used to mark the windows that they washed.  But what I remember the most was my grandfather’s fierce belief in the privilege of living in America.  To not live in fear.  To have the opportunity to dream of endless possibilities, and to have the chance to see them realized.  He knew what it meant to not have hope.  When he said we lived in the “greatest country in the world”, he meant it, heart and soul.

Over the years, I have heard many stories from those who fled from the horrors of World War II, the purges of Stalin, the Holocaust.  Some stories I wish I could erase from my memory, so disturbing in their description on how we can dehumanize our fellow man.  But each and every one of those tales reinforces that no matter what our current troubles in America, we don’t have to fear the knock in the night, that guns will be placed in the hands of our 8 year sons with instructions to kill people different from them, or that we’ll have to hear the wailing of infants dying of starvation.

As we celebrate our troops returning from Iraq this holiday season, we must remember that there are always those still “yearning to breathe free”.  In Afghanistan, the Sudan, Somalia, North Korea.   That our enduring belief that men deserve to live free threatens those who seek to control and degrade others, and that our brave men and women of the United States Military stand watch every day around the world to send the message that we are not afraid, and that we stand ready to welcome and support those who desire to live free.

Happy 125th Birthday to the Statue of Liberty.  May you always be a source of hope for our sisters and brothers who suffer and dream of a better world.


[1] Oct. 28, 1886 | Statue of Liberty Is Unveiled, New York Times Learning Network, October 28, 2011.

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