More than 50 years have passed since I served in the 69th Infantry Division of the First Army during World War II, but the images of combat remain vivid to me today. Most men and women who have served our country in a time of war will forever recall the horrific details of their own personal experiences in battle. The close calls, the lost friends, the struggle to succeed and survive a mission under the most adverse conditions imaginable have left scars that will remain with me for a lifetime.
But serving in wartime left me with much more than these painful memories. It gave rise to a renewed appreciation for the freedoms that we enjoy as Americans. Not once since returning to our Nation’s soils have I taken for granted the privileges of our democracy. Not only do I cherish the freedom to speak my mind, to worship at my church and to participate in the election process, but I have also learned to appreciate the ‘little things’ that make the American lifestyle what it is today. I have grown to value the ability to partake in even the most ordinary activities of daily life in our society, such as driving a car, earning a paycheck, vacationing with my family and even turning on the television.
It is this appreciation for all that contributes to our quality of life that I want to impart upon the youth of today through the development of a memorial that honors human courage and sacrifice without glorifying war.
The objective of the project is not only to provide a peaceful place for healing and paying homage to our veterans, but also to provide an educational tool through which we can teach our young people about the human costs that were involved in making this country great. I believe it is critical to our future for our youth to understand that the lifestyle they enjoy was bought through the sacrifices of those who came before them. Unless they comprehend this, they will never fully appreciate and value the freedoms that they have.
I would wish upon no one my own wartime experiences. I do wish, however, that all future generations would learn to cherish, as I have, all that it means to be a citizen of the United States of America. When we learn to cherish our freedoms, we learn to treat them with respect—to nurture and protect them. And, I can’t think of a better way to pay homage to our veterans.
Written by Bud Sosebee when he was nearing the end of his 12-year run as a Rockdale County Commissioner in 2000.