Honoring Those Who Served Before Us: Editorial

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Portrait of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Photo public domain.

Editorial by Lt. Col. Kirk Hilbrecht, Director of Public Affairs, Kentucky National Guard

The Fourth of July…Independence Day…a US federal holiday commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

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This holiday brings forth mental images of fireworks, parades, backyard barbecues, baseball games, family gatherings, and political speeches.
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July 4th is the day that America celebrates its birth as an independent nation, an independence born of conflict and commitment.
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It’s difficult to imagine July 4th in the American colonies 235 years ago:  A newborn country beginning its fight for independence and separation from Great Britain, its leaders signing a “declaration of independence” that formally explained this new country’s mantra:
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“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
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America would see its resolve tested throughout its history, sometimes having to send its men and women into harm’s way to protect these freedoms it fought for more than two centuries ago.
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2nd Lt. Kirk Hilbrecht, armor officer with 1-8th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division, Desert Storm .

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the liberation of Kuwait from Iraq during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Having served as a tank platoon leader with First Cavalry Division, I was baptized by fire as a no-nuthin’ 22 year old butter-bar lieutenant in an M1 tank platoon.
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With only four months of active duty under my Kevlar, I had to rely on the professionalism of my Soldiers and their ‘call to duty’ to see us through the nine months of difficult missions before us.
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It’s these unstated threads of camaraderie, commitment, and brotherhood woven into the mantel of responsibility of Service Members that allow our Troops to fight so well, for so long, so very far from home.

Kentucky National Guard in Afghanistan, December 2010.

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Most recently, I’ve seen our Troops’ sense of obligation to mission while visiting units in Afghanistan, where spirits soared higher than the temperatures in the Khash Desert.
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This sense of communion and commitment permeates our troops serving our Commonwealth during natural disasters or in preparation for deployment.
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It’s the same resolve demonstrated by Troops of every conflict and every war that has helped keep our freedoms free.
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I was honored to see this same Band of Brotherhood during the Bluegrass Honor Flight of the 81 World War II Veterans who were flown to the WWII Memorial in Washington on the 67th Anniversary of D-Day.

World War II Vets at the World War II Memorial spend an afternoon with Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chief of Staff of the Army.

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Brian Duffy, program director for Kentucky’s Honor Flight program, has led this all-expense paid trip to Washington D.C. for the past seven years.
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A veteran himself, Duffy wanted to help these veterans see their monument which memorializes the 16 million men and women who served in the armed forces of the U.S. during World War II and the more than 400,000 who died.
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“The World War II Memorial is dedicated to the spirit, sacrifice, and commitment of the American people,” Duffy said. “I am honored to help these vets see it.”
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I will always remember this special trip; watching these silvered men and women sharing stories, laughter, tears and memories, brought together to serve a Nation during Her time of need.

Kentucky friends, families and citizens met at Louisville's International Airport to welcome home World War II Veterans after their Honor Flight to the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C.

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As flags waved in Louisville’s airport by Kentuckians welcoming home these WWII Vets from their D.C. trip, I reflected on how blessed this country is with its committed citizens and Service Members.
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I  was in uniform as I wheeled a vet in his chair down the concourse through the gauntlet of supporters. I received pats on the back and hearty handshakes from folks who also wanted to thank me for my service.
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I found myself choking back tears formed from pride and gratitude for our Military and the sacrifices these Troops make each and every day to keep our freedoms free.
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I am proud to be a Service Member.  I’m proud because our Military members – with unflinching resolve and disregard for their own safety – carry on a tradition of loyalty and bravery that has become the badge of honor for Americans throughout our nation’s history.
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Protecting our nation. Helping our fellow citizens. Unbridled Service.
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Happy Birthday, America.

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Related Story Links

Honor Flight, Bluegrass Chapter
Chapters website

Lexington, KY ABC36 news coverage

Original article with accompanying video, click here


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