Bob Pinegar's son, Eric, created a shadow box of Vietnam Era memories for his dad. (Photo by Julie Higgins)

OPINION |

For generations, we the people of the United States have had the privilege of living with freedom, liberty, and justice for all. Thousands of service men and women — like Bob Pinegar — have earned their freedom through military service to America. I and others, because of their service, have inherited this freedom; these same soldiers have defended our rights at home and abroad.

Our Constitution guarantees our freedom and the men and women fight to ensure it is sustained. America is internationally known for freedom and liberty. It’s the freedom stated in our Bill of Rights, which contain many of America’s most valued freedoms. These first 10 amendments of the Constitution guarantee essential rights and civil liberties such as the freedom of speech, the right to bear arms, and the right to a fair trial, as well as protecting the role of the states in American government.

Abraham Lincoln was adamant in his closing remarks in the Gettysburg Address when he said, “Because of the devotion of the men who gave their lives for our country they must not die in vain. For they sacrificed their lives that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.” Greater love hath no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

Bob Pinegar Army photo

Bob Pinegar, a Vietnam Veteran, served from 1968-1970. Bob shared, “It was a job we had to do so Americans could have an easier life living with freedom. Our job was to stop the fighting that was going on over there so it wouldn’t advance to the United States. I was one of the luckier ones who got out alive. If it weren’t for those who served in the military and even law enforcement, we wouldn’t have the freedom we have to do what we want.” 

Bob was 22 when he was drafted into the Army. He said he knew his name was on the list and someday he’d go in. Bob paused for a brief moment and then shared, “When we came back home in the early ‘70’s, we were not welcomed. People were against all of us because they didn’t understand why we were there. You can’t really understand the sacrifice unless you’ve been.”

Thankfully in our local community we recognize and respect our veterans and men/women in uniform. Bob recently went on an Honor Flight with 80 other veterans. The Honor Flight of the Ozarks takes a day trip to Washington D.C. allowing veterans to visit the memorials, monuments, and Arlington National Cemetery. It pays our respect to these men and women who know firsthand what sacrifice means. 

Bob Pinegar is reflected in this Memorial Wall photo inscribed with inspirational words about the sacrifice of men and women who serve in the military. (Photo provided)

Bob stood in front of the Memorial Wall reading about sacrifice. Bob showed me the picture he took, with his reflection on the wall, and said, “Read this.”

An inscription from Sergeant Carl Goldman who was killed in action wrote this to his parents, “…am going on a raid this afternoon … there is a possibility I won’t return… do not worry about me as everyone has to leave this earth one way or another, and this is the way I have selected. If after this terrible war is over, the world emerges a saner place … pogroms and persecutions halted, then, I’m glad I gave my efforts with thousands of others for such a cause.” 

Another inscription of sacrifice, “Tell them that we gave our todays for their tomorrows.”

As I finished reading, Bob said, “That’s how it is. We sacrificed so there could be freedom. A lot happened over there you put in the back of your mind. It wasn’t so much of what we were doing but what we had to do.”

On the Honor Flight home, mail call was held as all veterans on the flight received cards and letters from family, grandchildren, friends, and even individuals they didn’t know yet were thankful for their service. 

Bob said many of the veterans wept as they read the cards. 

Bob Pinegar and his wife Donna reading through the letters Bob received on his way back home from an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. (Photo by Julie Higgins)

A close friend of Bob’s quoted in a letter, “Many Vets came home and were looked down on when they had served their country with Honor and Bravery and were not even welcomed home. You are an example of that Honor and Bravery.”

Another individual who didn’t know Bob but wanted to write said, “I was young when you were serving our country so far away in Vietnam; I had no knowledge of the issues our servicemen were facing, either ‘in country’ or when they came back home. But I’m not young anymore, and I know that you and your comrades in arms were not treated with the gratitude and respect you deserved when you came back. For that, I apologize on behalf of those who treated you wrong.”

Bob and millions of others have fought for our freedom along with those today who continue to defend our freedom. As citizens of the United States, it is our responsibility to provide an understanding to present and future generations the value of freedom and liberty. 

Freedom starts at the dinner table by educating your children and sharing the foundational principles of America. It begins with conversations about our founding fathers and how our nation was established as one under God and we were created by and in the image of God, as a boy or a girl. It begins with teaching them what bravery looks like, about our veterans and men/women in uniform.

After the Civil War, Memorial Day was established to recognize those who lost their lives fighting for our freedom. Each year at 3:00 p.m., people are asked to pause and have a moment of silence, remembering our military and the men and women who gave their lives then and those who today stand in uniform. 

I’m asking you to take this time to not only pause, but to pray for protection over our nation, the military men and women and their families, plus a blessing over the veterans and their families.

Together we can make a difference. Together we can begin new rhetoric and initiatives that strengthen our liberties and freedom. Freedom begins today. 

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Julie Higgins

Julie G. Higgins is a Springfield entrepreneur and founder of I Pour Life, a nonprofit that provides development coaching and curriculum to at-risk women and youth. Her mantra is: “Teach with your life.” Follow her on Twitter: @julieGhiggins or email her at: juliehigg@yahoo.com More by Julie Higgins