NORTH LIBERTY– Some people may see the phrase, “freedom is not free” as a cliché. For Michael Annis, the administrator of the Heritage Christian School in North Liberty, it is more of an understatement.
The school hosted it’s annual Veterans Day Celebration on Monday, Nov. 11, with veterans honored and thanked for their service through musical and video tributes as well as words of appreciation from Annis and a personal thank-you from every student in the building.
“To those of you who have served, we are honored by your attendance. Our hope is that you leave here feeling appreciated,” Annis said.
This year’s guest speaker was retired U.S. Army Captain Todd Pierce, a Heritage parent and Afghanistan combat veteran. “He’s somebody you know,” Annis told the students. “And he’s here to tell you what the freedom you live in costs.”
Captain Pierce enlisted in the U.S. Army following his freshman year of college and quickly realized it was a calling far beyond his initial plans for a basic four-year term. He applied for and was accepted to Officer Candidate School, graduating with an infantry specialty at Fort Benning, Ga., where he met his wife Kimberly. They arrived on Sept.10, 2001. He was to begin a two-week in processing with his new unit when the terrorist attacks of 9-11 took place.
“Chaos broke out,” the captain said. He received a phone call in his hotel room, which essentially told him to grab his gear. His unit deployed to Afghanistan in October 2003.
Support from his family was key, he said, noting the many letters and care packages he received during his deployment. Captain Pierce compared the war effort of World War II to the current war on terror. During WWII, he noted, there was full support across the nation with planned blackouts, rationing and people working extra jobs to ensure material and equipment reached the troops. Today however, there is no need for such sacrificing, and much less buy-in. However supporting the individual serving overseas is still vital.
There are lots of resources available for supporting the troops, Pierce said, and even the simple act of sending a card or short letter saying, showing appreciation means a lot, as do care packages. He also pointed to the Veterans Administration Hospital in Iowa City, saying there are many vets there in need of support and care.
“That falls on me too,” Pierce said. “It’s important that we honor those people by going there and spending time with them.” Heritage fifth through eighth-grade students did just that on Friday, Nov. 15, as they performed a musical salute in the hospital’s atrium over the noon hour, and make personal visits to veterans to thank them for their service.
Captain Pierce had another request for his fellow vets. “Tell your stories. The things that you did. The things that you sacrificed. Those are the reasons I raised my hand and volunteered.”
Annis quoted George Washington, saying, “the willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.
“Unfortunately today, too many are unaware of who around them should be thanked for serving our country,” Annis said. “I want our children to know who you are. I want them to see your faces, to look you in the eye, and to tell you thank you. They need to know that freedom isn’t free, that the price for the preservation of freedom is so far beyond what we can comprehend.”
After the event, Annis said the price paid for freedom has tens of thousands of faces, a reality he wants etched into the minds of the students. The sacrifice of the families is also an important consideration, he said. “We must impress in the minds of our children the principles of liberty and what it costs.”
“Children are not born patriots,” Annis said. “They are raised to be patriots. Liberty will always be under assault by those who wish to rule and oppress. Therefore, a fighting force comprised of patriots is essential for the preservation of liberty. Shame on us if we take for granted the cost of liberty and fail to honor those who have stood to protect it.”
Looking out at the room full of veterans and their families, Annis told them, “we live in the freedom you purchased, as do many all over the globe. You stood against tyranny. You were willing to give up everything so that we could live in peace.”