|Photo: The United States Marine Corps|
The following was written for the White House Connection and appears in the July 4, 2017, edition of the publication.
By Kris Freeman
By Kris Freeman
Freedom comes with a sacrifice, and this was one as a young boy I was determined to make to achieve a dream. On Independence Day, I’m reminded of a commercial on which an iron worker heated a piece of metal that morphed into a uniformed United States Marine with his decorated sword.
“The few, the proud, The Marines.” I am certain you have seen the same commercial, and heard the slogan for the USMC which originated in 1977.
My grandfather was a veteran of the United States Army and served post war-time. My pastor served in the Vietnam War. I’ve lost a former ballplayer to a roadside IED, welcomed home best friends and kids from my church from training and deployment. I’ve baptized soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines who have served in combat in Iraq, Afghanistan and been stationed in Germany, Portugal, Japan and the Philippines. I lost a friend to a traffic accident after he returned home from basic training, and I performed the wedding ceremony of a wife and her Marine decked in the same uniform I saw in that commercial. One of my best friends in life is a former Command Sergeant Major in the United States Army stationed at Pearl Harbor.
The military, its purpose and calling, the service men and women who fight and sacrifice for our freedom, and the patriotism to our country matter to me. But part of the reason it has long stood out for me is not just the love for our country, but the opportunity I craved so badly and never achieved.
I never told my parents I wanted to be a Marine. Partly, because I was bullied and meek and thought no one would believe my intentions were pure. I wanted to fight for my country. I was willing to die for my country. And as I entered high school, this took on a greater mission when I saw the United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps. I eventually watched them live on July 4, in Washington D.C. on a school trip for FBLA.
Many of you know me as a pastor, announcer and a coach. What you may not know is that I was diagnosed with a benign bone tumor in my left leg in middle school, resulting in the loss of my ability to play high school contact sports (baseball would have been my likely path). A blow to the left leg would break my tibia or fibula in half. So reluctantly, I stayed with a path of music despite my pure intention to play sports and never step in the band room again.
I came from a musical family, so it was an easy transition. I marched six years with the high school band and by my sophomore year in high school, I was leading the trumpet section. I graduated as the winner of the Departmental Award for music at Portland High School. Yes, I’m a Blue Devil converted from a Panther but that’s another story for another time.
I had scholarship opportunities for music and turned them down because even if I couldn’t play baseball, I could coach, broadcast and write about it. And eventually I would, but there would be one hitch to the plan. I still dreamed of that USMC Drum and Bugle Corps, with a shined up horn, dress uniform and Fourth of July parade. I would have done what it took.
No one ever knew at age 17 I met with a recruiter, and the meeting took all of 30 seconds. “Do you have any pre-existing medical conditions?” He asked plainly and I replied, “yes, two years ago I was diagnosed with type one diabetes.” Game over. Dream over. Band horns down. And that’s the moment I decided I didn’t want music as a career.
Independence Day is a celebration of freedom, and what I have learned is that my choices to follow God’s path for my life seem well planned before I choose. What I feel I have missed is often replaced with fulfilling relationships with others who are my heroes.
They serve, they sacrifice and they save. Just as Jesus Christ did for me, and paid the ultimate price for the freedom from much more than foreign regime. He died so that I might have freedom from sin, and for that I am enlisted in a greater purpose to tell others about his grace, love, mercy and forgiveness.
But, as the fireworks explode this holiday into the sky, I can’t help but wonder what might have been and there is both a sense of envy and pride that dreams of marching forward. As band horns blare the sounds of the Fourth of July, I hoped one day I could play the song. I realize that decision could have cost my life, as the 1990s were filled with combat in the Middle East and Africa, among other places.
But I still remember that sun-soaked, 104-degree day in 1993 when my friends and I stood on the Fourth of July at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and toured Arlington National Cemetery. The freedom we possess is not about trumpets, or uniforms, pomp or circumstance. It’s about sacrifice. That day, there were no trumpets, no fanfare and no sounds. Just silence in honor of sacrifice.
And I am thankful for those who gave up their dreams so the rest of us could imagine them.
Happy Fourth of July, be safe, and serve someone today with significance.
Kris Freeman is the pastor of Revolution Church and the voice of the Blue Devils for White House High School football and basketball.