Op-Ed: Thank our veterans for 233 years of freedom
It was bitter cold on that Christmas day in northern Pennsylvania in 1776. British forces had occupied Boston and New York, forcing Americans to evacuate, and the King's army was close to eliminating resistance in the north.
General George Washington had been tipped off that the Hessians (German soldiers fighting for the British) had taken shelter from the bad weather on the other side of the Delaware River in Trenton, and were likely either drunk or asleep. It was a big gamble Washington decided to take — to cross the frozen river and take the Hessians by surprise.
Marching through ice, driving rain and snow, Washington's men were freezing, tired, and barely able to put one foot in front of the other as they trudged forward. Hundreds would collapse from sickness and exhaustion. Nearly a third had no boots. Their feet wrapped in rags, they left a trail of blood as they reached the Pennsylvania shores of the Delaware River. Thomas Paine would write, “These are the times that try men's souls.”
The boats carrying American soldiers barely made it across the Delaware because of ice. But in the frozen darkness, they made it to shore and marched to Trenton where the Hessians were asleep. Although the Americans were heavily outnumbered, they overtook the Hessians and won the battle of Trenton. It was the turning point of the Revolutionary War and reinvigorated the troops toward the cause of American freedom.
Through many wars since, American soldiers have always answered the call, no matter what the price, fighting in the most unimaginable conditions to protect and preserve what we cherish most about our nation — freedom. Many have paid the ultimate price, giving their lives, because they understood their country's future rested upon achieving victory.
Today we celebrate Veterans' Day and honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice so that we may live in a free nation. From those who stormed the beaches at Normandy on D-Day, to the brave men and women serving and returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, veterans uphold the same values as those who walked barefoot that day in the bitter cold: service to a cause greater than self.
We owe our veterans and their families an enormous debt of support, respect and gratitude for their service to our nation. Their dedication and sacrifices have preserved our ability to live, work and raise our families in a free nation.
Nearly 700,000 veterans live in Washington state. Chances are, you know a veteran or their family members. Please make the effort to thank them for their service, offer whatever assistance they need, and show your appreciation.
Let us also recommit to make every day a time to celebrate the dedicated service of our veterans. We can do so by offering returning veterans a job, a ride to the doctor, and help to find the resources they and their families need.
Finally, if you are a veteran, thank you for your willingness to walk in the footsteps of the soldiers in the cold Pennsylvania snow and your sacrifice to our nation.
As President Reagan once said, “Our liberties, our values, all for which America stands, is safe today because brave men and women have been ready to face the fire at freedom's front. And we thank God for them.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: State Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, represents the 39th Legislative District, and also serves as chairman of the Washington House Republican Caucus. He can be contacted at (360) 786-7967 or e-mail him and sign up for his e-newsletter at: houserepublicans.wa.gov/Kristiansen.