To have freedom you must be willing to die for it

Editor's note: Austin native Tom Kelly of Buffalo, Minn., wrote the following open letter to his father, Dick Kelly, after Dick had left Austin on an "Honor Flight" to view the Veterans' Memorial in Washington, D.C.

By Tom Kelly

Dear Dad:

When you're reading this letter, it is my hope that you are on the plane heading toward Washington D.C.

You, Howard, Don and those on your plane were part of the "Greatest Generation" who said "no" to Hitler when he wanted to take over the world, and answered your country's call when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.


Dad, I am proud to say that you and your four brothers all served in WWII at the same time. You served in the Southwest Pacific. Claude served in North Africa. Kenny served in the China-Burma-India theater of war. Lefty served in France and arrived via the Normandy Landing. Jerry served on the North Sea. I am sure Grandpa and Grandma felt a sense of pride, but at the same time were worried and prayed for a safe return. Thankfully, their prayers were answered and you all made it back home.

I am also proud and thankful to all veterans on your plane and elsewhere who served our country and to those servicemen and servicewomen who continue to serve our country today. My father-in-law, Robert "Doc" Lommen, also served in WWII, and my brother, Brian, served in the Air Force during the '70s.

As more and more war veterans pass away there are fewer and fewer left to carry the torch of remembrance. We must pick up that torch and help others learn, know and remember the true price of freedom!

There are many ways to teach the values of patriotism and citizenship. As County Attorney, I have chosen to go to schools throughout Wright County and speak to government and law classes.

I ask students what is the greatest country in the world? They respond the United States of America. I ask them why it is the greatest country in the world? They respond because of the many freedoms we have.

I tell them the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights guarantee all citizens the following rights and freedoms: The right to bear arms, the right to a jury trial in a criminal case, the right to an attorney in a criminal case, the right against self-incrimination in a criminal case, the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, the right to due process, the right to equal protection of the law, the freedom of speech and press, the freedom of religion, the freedom to peaceably assemble, the freedom to pursue a livelihood and happiness, and most important of all FREEDOM itself!

I ask the students what does the average citizen owe to society for all these rights and freedoms? I tell them pay taxes and remain law-abiding. Is that asking too much? I tell kids that's a heck of a deal, and because of those brave Americans (like you here on the plane today) who were willing to serve, it is as good a deal as it was when we first got it back in 1787 when our Constitution was ratified and 1791 when our Bill of Rights was passed.

I remind the students that these rights and freedoms would not have been possible except there were people willing to die for them. There can be no freedom unless one is willing to die for freedom.


In WWI 116,000 Americans lost their lives; in WWII 400,000 Americans died; in Korea 37,000 Americans were killed; in Vietnam 58,000 Americans died; in Iraq so far 4,500 Americans have lost their lives; and in Afghanistan so far 1,065 Americans have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

I want the students to know and remember the true price of freedom so they will never forget the sacrifices that came before them. I tell them that, because of those who have been willing to serve, they have a shot, a chance, at the "American Dream." They can be whoever and whatever they want.

Personally, I have never been in trench warfare during WWI, but I am grateful to those who have.

I have never been in an amphibious landing craft heading for the beaches of Normandy during WWII, but I am grateful to those who have.

I have never known the hell of Korea, but I am grateful to those who have.

I have never had to fight in the jungles of Vietnam, but I am grateful to those who have.

I have never fought in the deserts of Kuwait/Saudi Arabia, but I am grateful to those who have.

I have never been subjected to the urban terrorist guerrilla warfare of Iraq, but I am grateful to those who have.


I have never fought in the caves of Afghanistan, but I am grateful to those who have.

May God bless all of you, may God bless those who have served and are serving, and may God bless the United States of America!

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