What does freedom mean? It appears to be a simple question with no simple answer. I have deployed three times for three different wars/operations. I sit and watch the world go by and wonder if we can answer that question. We all too often thank our veterans but do we really understand them and what they went through? I went to war so I might understand my father better. He served with honor for two tours in Vietnam and growing up I never knew him. The past and alcohol always haunted him. He went to war twice, now his son has gone three times. It was only after “I saw the elephant” of the horrors of war did he finally share with me his experience. It was a right of passage. At that moment so long ago I decided to do what I could to serve veterans and the memory of those that have served, whether in combat or non-combat roles.
I struggle each day with the vision of the baby that died in my arms as her father just left her with us in Iraq. I see a young Iraqi girl dead and lost to the world and her future just gone. I see the puppy that I had to put down because the Special Forces group that adopted them just couldn’t bring themselves to do it. I see the bodies of far too many young and promising men and women lost. I see the eyes of my children as I left for war. I see my eldest son Noah as he has seen me leave three times to fight for him. I see my middle son Alexander as an infant when I left for war and he aged so much while I was gone. I see my daughter Sarah with Cheetos dust on her face and a smile ear to ear running down the airport as I returned from my second tour. I see the strength of my wife, Rebecca, since she remained home as I left for harms way. She has survived three tours on her own.
What does freedom mean? I ask you that question. Can you answer it? I want to put together a book of stories and memories of those that have served. If you have served in uniform please consider sharing. It is a huge thing to share. I am fully aware what I am asking you to do. You know as well as I do, it is only a fellow veteran that can ask such a thing of you. I was in Florida after my second tour and I was holding my daughter’s doll. A stranger approached and was giving me grief. I stated if I was man enough to go to war I was man enough to hold my daughters doll. He then asked me “did you kill one of those bastards for me?” I looked at him and ask him if he had served and he stated NO. I then, not so politely told him he had no right to ask me any questions like that until he is willing to serve. So I know the power of the thing I am asking you to do. I do know, we talk about all the good times but we never talk about the bad. Please take a
moment and look deep inside and consider sharing your story. It does not have to be long, just your story. Email me something about your time in uniform and what you did to serve this great country. If you have not served please take a moment to answer my question. Tell me “What does freedom mean to you?”
This Summer I plan to take my sons and daughter to as many small towns as possible and take photos of their monuments to our military. I will ask the local citizens what freedom means to them. If you have not noticed the greatest monuments to our military are not in Washington DC, they are in the small towns of America. Those towns have sacrificed many more sons and daughters to protect our land than any other place in this country.
Please consider sending me your story. Take a moment and share before those memories are lost to the sands of time.
Major Peter Strube
Chief of Anesthesia
948th FST, Al Kut, Iraq
Major Peter Strube CRNA MSNA APNP ARNP
Director Mount Horeb Board of Education