For every day of freedom since the founding of the United States, more than 13 military men and women have died under enemy fire, according to retired U.S. Army Col. William Coffey of Plainville.
Though half of them perished in a bloody Civil War on America’s own soil, the sacrifice that has kept the nation free lies at the root of this weekend’s marking of Memorial Day, numerous speakers told Chippens Hill Middle School seventh graders during an assembly Friday.
Sgt. 1st Class Gregory Stube, a soft-spoken Tennessee native who serves with the U.S. Army Special Forces at For Bragg, N.C., told the youngsters about the terrible wounds he received while fighting in Afghanistan in late 2006.
Stube said he lost 70 percent of his intestines, suffered severe burns on a third of his body, two gun-shot wounds and had his right leg blown off below the knee – though a military surgeon managed to restore it during an 18 hour surgery.
Lying in the hospital for a year afterward, he said, he came to realization that despite the high price war had made him pay, it was worth it.
Looking out at the children arrayed in the middle school’s auditorium, Stube said, "I would do it all again because I’m looking at the reasons I did it in the first place."
School Superintendent Philip Streifer said the men and women in the military serve our country "so we can do the simple things we do every day."
In a world where extremists would gladly seize control of everyday life for everyone else, he said, it’s important to remember the guardians of America’s freedom and to honor the sacrifices "of every-body who put it all on the line" for their country.
"The least we can do is take a few moments to remember our fallen heroes," Streifer said, including the nearly 4,300 Americans who have died in Iraq and the 678 who have perished in Afghanistan since the nightmare of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.
Streifer told the assembly about a friend whose daughter was slated to take a plane from Boston to New York on 9-11 and to attend a business function at the top of the World Trade Center that day. His friend spent the day in dread – and ultimately learned that his daughter was among the dead.
Stube said he’s glad to see so much going on in Bristol to mark the holiday.
"Memorial Day is about honoring the lives that our freedom has depended on," he said. "Though the people are gone, they are not forgotten."
"Bristol, Connecticut is an amazing place," Stube added, "look at the honor that is being brought to this holiday."
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