Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day: Freedom Is Not Free

I have said many times, “freedom is not free.” Frank A. Olomon was a WW2 veteran that lived with a daily reminder of that statement.  I officiated his funeral in June of 2011.  Frank and two of his brothers served in the military during WW2. 
Hitler’s military machine had taken over France in May of 1940 and conquered it in six weeks. In response, the US military landed in Normandy, France, on July 22, 1944.    A few weeks later, Frank landed in Normandy and worked his way up to Saint Lo with the 28th infantry.  On August 29, 1944, Frank was hit in the leg with a 50 caliber tracer bullet. It hit his knee and exited the back of his thigh.  With many dead all around him, he eventually became unconscious from the shock and was later picked up by a tank.  Frank’s leg had to be amputated. 
His parents got a telegram saying that he was missing in action.  Then one came that he was wounded in action.  He eventually made it to a military hospital in Battle Creek, Michigan.  It was there that his parents were finally able to see him.  Frank was later awarded the Bronze Star, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with Bronze Star attachment, Victory Medal, Good Conduct Medal and Honorable Service lapel pin.  Once back in Burlington, Iowa, Frank made it around on crutches for quite some time before getting an artificial leg.  Around this time, he decided he would teach his brother, Glenn, to drive so that he could be chauffeured to work.  The two brothers headed down a gravel road and Frank directed Glen to turn here and turn there and then he told him to bring it to a stop.  When Glenn put on the brakes he was in loose gravel and the car made a 180 degree turn.  Frank told him to get out of the driver’s seat and from that day on Frank drove.
Frank was later fitted with a prosthetic leg and wore out four of them during the next 67 years. He lived with phantom pain and pain in his upper leg all of his life.  Daily he lived with a reminder of war.  I wonder how many days Frank went to strap on his prosthetic leg only to think back to that day in St. Lo, France? 
Frank worked for Zaiser’s Florist and Greenhouse for 45 years. Being on your feet working in the greenhouse and fields with a prosthetic leg was not easy but Frank did it and did it well. 
Frank met his wife, Betty Gosling, on a blind date in Burlington.  She was from England and she too had a personal experience with WW2.   Her home town experienced 65 air raids from German planes. 
Frank saw his fellow soldiers die on the battle field and he lived with a constant reminder that freedom is not free.  The war changed him physically and psychologically.  
Don’t just wait to thank a veteran on Veteran’s Day, thank veterans as often as you can.  You would be surprised at how many of them have never heard someone say—thank you.
 And remember that freedom is not free.

I thank God for all of the American men and women who have served our country!
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