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The High Cost of Freedom

We enjoy great freedom in America because for more than two hundred years people have been willing to fight and die for it. Without their sacrifices, and the sacrifices of their families, we would have no freedom.
Freedom in America seems so normal that we often forget it isn't free. Our freedom was bought and paid for with the highest price of all 'life itself. The United States of America is a free nation because men and women have been willing to fight against those who would try and take our freedom. One of these people was an eighteenth century farmer named Jacob Stockwell. December 10, 1776 Jacob Stockwell enlisted in Captain Jeremiah Burrough's company in a battalion commanded by Colonel Seth Warner. On July 7, 1777 Jacob was captured by the British. In September 1778, Jacob Stockwell died.

Sometime in 1777 Rachel Stockwell, Jacob's wife, gave birth to their fourth child and second son, Eleazar B. Stockwell. Perhaps Jacob was able to learn from a friend or a letter that Rachel and their new son were all right. Maybe he could only hope and pray that all was well with his family. Jacob Stockwell may also have gone to his grave not knowing that he had another son.

Following the example of the father he had never had a chance to know, Eleazar B. Stockwell, my fourth great grandfather, served in the army between 1807 and 1816. During the War of 1812 he held the rank of Lieutenant. He also served as a Captain in the State Militia. (Information about the Stockwell Family is from The Stockwell Family: Adventures into the Past 1626-1982 by Irene Dixon Stockwell, Janesville Printing Co., Janesville, Wis. 1982).

Our freedom was established because people were willing to fight and die for it. Today we are free because people are still willing to fight and die for freedom. When countries go to war their well-trained fighting men and women risk their lives, and some will surely die. Others will be wounded, and some disabled. And there are always innocent civilian men, women, and children who will also be killed, or injured. Even animals can be caught in the crossfire and lose their lives, or starve to death when their sources of food are destroyed. As horrible as war is, and a much as we want to avoid it, we could not be free and secure without a well-trained, well-equipped military to stand up for our rights and freedom.

Those who fight are not the only ones who serve and sacrifice. When a man dies fighting for his country he sacrifices his life, but that is only the beginning. His wife sacrifices her husband, and must face life without the friend and partner she had hoped she would always be able to turn to for love, support, and encouragement. His children sacrifice their father, who will miss out on seeing their Little League games, or music recitals, or school plays. His parents sacrifice their child, and, while feeling pride for what their precious son accomplished, they must bury the dreams that were yet to be realized with his body.

And men do not hold a monopoly on dying for their country. Woman have also laid down their lives for our liberty leaving husbands without their wives, children without their mothers, and parents without their beloved daughters. All the lives that these women touched and would have touched had they lived will be poorer because of the loss.

I had hoped that the war in Iraq could be avoided. I hated the thought of military personnel risking their lives, and their families being separated. I knew that war would mean that some of them would not be reunited after a few months or years. A picture of a widow who was eight and a half months pregnant gazing at the casket of her husband who had been killed in Iraq was particularly heart-rending.

Is freedom worth such a high price? I think that depends on what we do with it. If we choose to be selfish and hedonistic, we make a mockery of the ideals so many have fought and died to defend. But this is America. And we are free to be responsible, caring, and compassionate. We are free to vote for our political leaders, keep tabs on what they do, and write to them and tell them what we expect from them. After all, WE THE PEOPLE of the United States are the employers of our local and state leaders, our senators and congressmen. Even the President of the United States is supposed to set aside his own interests and work for the good of all the people. We are free to make the world a better place, and honor the memory of those who sacrificed to make it possible.

About the Author
Janice L. Smith has BA and MA degrees in Psychology. She was a popular substitute teacher before and after graduate school, and also worked as a Museum Educator. Her novel, Daddy's Little Secret is available at and will soon be available at

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