This video is evidence of the cost willingly paid by our veterans. I ran across this video taken from the deck of an aircraft carrier during WWII in an email to me today. I found it to be very moving and a clear statement of the ultimate cost of freedom.
You will see a Navy fighter bomber returning to its aircraft carrier after a raid over Manila in the Philippines. The fighter was hit by anti-aircraft fire.
As it lands, it looks in perfect shape, but you can see that the gunner’s turret behind the pilot’s cockpit has taken a direct hit. It is clear that the damage to the turret has been catastrophic and the young gunner’s mate has been killed in action, even though the rest of the fighter seems to have been untouched.
It is what is done then that brings the cost of freedom home to us all.
The young sailor’s body is so damaged that it cannot even be removed from the wreckage of the gun turret. A Corpsman takes his fingerprints and the rest of the flight deck crew move the plane with its precious cargo to the aft portion of the flight deck. A Chaplain climbs up on one of the folded wings and gives the final blessing, the last rites, to the young gunner. A sailor plays taps and the crew, in unison, bows their heads in respectful prayer.
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Then with as much respect and honor as possible, the damaged plane is pushed overboard in a powerful burial at sea ceremony.
As you watch this video, remember this young man who gave his last full measure in the long effort to defeat the forces of tyranny that were forced upon the world during WWII. Remember that he would have loved to have lived a long life, full of the pleasures of marriage and family, a productive and meaningful work life, and the pleasures of grandchildren in his old age.
He willingly and bravely put his life on the line, like all of his shipmates in the air wing and on board that carrier, to defeat the forces of tyranny that threatened the entire world in those days.
We will never be able to thank the veterans of the WWII generation enough for the sacrifices that they made on behalf of freedom. Let us never forget the prices they paid to maintain the freedom of this nation and so many others in the world. We must never forget that freedom is not free.
The Veterans Site honors the memory of all the veterans who have sacrificed their lives in all of our wars so that we might enjoy the continuing freedom that this country promises in our Constitution.
Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.