Memorial Day reminds us of the value of freedom
by Linn and Ari Armstrong
"To get in a fracas where you're blowing each other into bits and pieces, that's barbaric... Of course, that's what we were trying to do: whip the ones that started it, carried it on. But, when they're ready to fight... you've got to beat them down. Finally you can do it. You lose a lot of boys..."
Theo Eversol, now passed, offered those words to his grandson, Ari, in 1998 (we'll use our first names here). Indeed, Ari is lucky to have been born at all, as his paternal grandfather, Otto Armstrong, also fought in the blood-drenched Pacific Rim during World War II.
Linn served in Vietnam (and Ari was born at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia). Ari's first step-father, Marshall Davis, is honored along with Tom Doody and other veterans at the Western Slope Vietnam War Memorial in Fruita. We have many other family members and friends who have served in wars or lost loved ones. Today we honor them all.
This is not the time to argue about the propriety of this or that conflict. It is the time to remember that soldiers sign up in order to defend the lives and freedoms of themselves, their loved ones, and their countrymen. It is the time to remember that freedom is not free, not since "embattled farmers... fired the shot heard round the world."
Today we wanted to share the story of a local Marine. A week or so after 9/11, a GI with a clean shave and cropped hair entered Linn's office. Even though Linn had known Scott for several years, it took him a few seconds to recognize the young man. Usually Scott sported a full beard and long hair. He must have seen the slow response to recognize him, because he said, "I'm Scott."
9/11 brings deep emotion to most of us as we recall the impact of the first tower. The horror set in at once, but our minds allowed only the thought that a plane had accidentally crashed into the tower. With the impact of plane number two the realization hit that America was at war. Like most families, our first response was to call love ones to attest that they were still safe.
A week later most American lives were starting to return to something closer to normal -- except in New York City, at the Pentagon, and at a black spot in rural America where flight 93 ended.
Life for Scott would not be the same for four years: he had reenlisted in the Marine Corps.
Some of us may have been surprised that Scott reenlisted, but those of us who really know him were probably not. Scott has been leading people for a long time. He has spent countless hours with the Boy Scouts, and while on leave he participated in an Eagle Scout ceremony.
Scott's real occupation is not that of a mason, but in his house he has replaced the carpet with tile. The work was artistic, beautiful and first-rate quality.
One of symbols of Masonry is the Square and Compass. At the entrance of Grand Junction's Masonic Temple a Square and Compass had been inlaid on the floor with carpet, in place for over thirty years. This symbol, six feet in diameter, saw many thousands of people walk over it during those years. With the passage of time the wear and tear was showing. Repair seemed unlikely. Scott was asked if he could replace the carpet with a Square and Compass made of tile.
Scott agreed, and in a few days the job was completed. Now everyone who enters the Temple, whether a Mason or not, stops to stare and marvel at the beauty of Scott's work.
But the real beauty of the work is what Scott did next. Scott was asked how much the cost was going to be. He asked, "Don't Shriners help kids?" Linn replied that Shriners spend about a million and a half dollars a day on children's hospitals.
"That's not what I mean. How do they raise money?"
Here in Grand Junction the Shriner Circus is the major means of raising money, Linn answered.
"That's not what I mean," Scott replied. "Instead of paying me, can the different lodges give money to the kids?" So far the different Masonic Lodges in the Grand Valley have donated around a thousand dollars on behalf of Scott, with more coming in, for the kids. These big, tough Marines can have awfully big hearts.
Scott reminds us that life is precious and worth fighting for. War is bloody, violent, and deadly. But, properly, the point of going to war is to protect people's lives from aggression and restore peace so that individuals can go about their lives in prosperity and liberty.
So today (to again quote Emerson) we honor those who fight to "leave their children free."