Freedom Is Not Free

I watched the flag pass by one day.
It fluttered in the breeze,
A young Marine saluted it, and then
He stood at ease.

I looked at him in uniform
So young, so tall, so proud,
With hair cut square and eyes alert.
He’d stand out in any crowd.

I thought how many men like him
Had fallen through the years.
How many died on foreign soil? How many mother’s tears?
How many pilots’ planes shot down?
How many died at sea? How many foxholes were soldiers graves?
No, freedom is not free.

I heard the sound of taps one night.
When everything was still.
I listened to the bugler play
And felt a sudden chill.

I wondered just how many times
That taps had meant “Amen”
When a flag had draped a coffin
Of a brother or a friend.

I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands
With interrupted lives.
I thought about a graveyard
At the bottom of the sea
Of unmarked graves in Arlington.


Cadet Major Kelly Strong