The price of freedom

Published 8:44 am Friday, May 26, 2017


Like many Americans, my celebration of Memorial Day in the past was a relaxed day off, until my eldest son, Lee, enlisted in the Army. His brother, Brian, and sister, Catie, followed in his footsteps, and it completely changed the way I viewed Memorial Day. I am very proud of my three children, and very grateful that all three returned home from war safely. My wife and I wanted to worry about their safety, but we realized our worry would not help them one bit to be safe, so we prayed: A LOT!  My children had many positive experiences while serving their country overseas.  Thank you Lord for bringing them home safely.  

I read this moving story about a volunteer to a Veteran’s Hospital in Muskogee, Oklahoma. The volunteer writes, “On my way to report to the volunteer coordinator I wondered, “What will she have me do today? Bedpans? Change sheets? Stock supplies?” 

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When I asked, the coordinator looked me up and down like a thoughtful judge before issuing a sentence. “You are in for a real treat. I’m assigning you to visit ‘Wild Bill’ in room 314.” She added, “He’s ornery. He’s angry, and he swears like a sailor!” As she pointed to his room she said, “Don’t take it personally.” I asked what he needed, and she responded quickly, “Love.  Lots of love. He hasn’t had a visitor for three weeks.”  

As I took a deep breath and gently rapped on the door as I opened it. “Hi Bill, how are you today?” I said in a soft voice as if I had just entered a chapel. 

“I don’t know you.” He grumbled. I introduced myself and went to shake his hand when he sneered, “What are you kidding me?” Then I realized he had no arms.  

Had I already forgotten I was in a Veteran’s Hospital? I should have known better. “I’m sorry,” I stuttered. “I didn’t realize.” 

“What? They didn’t warn you Wild Bill didn’t have any !@#* arms?” He spat. “I need a shave!” He demanded.  Bill had a week’s worth of salt and pepper scruff. I asked if he had a razor, surprised we were still on speaking terms. “No!” He bellowed. “Get one from the #!@* nurse.” 

The nurse handed me a Bic razor, a can of Barbasol shaving cream and a Dixie cup. “This’ll do the job.” She smiled. “Help him look his best. His daughter is coming to see him later today for the first time.” 

I walked back into the room with my new surgical equipment for the wiskerectomy, and Bill sat up a little straighter and leaned his chin forward. Raising the Bic to his face. Scrape, shake and rinse. Scrape, shake and rinse, until I had completely shaved his face.  Neither one of us spoke a word to each other during the shave. We didn’t need to. The very act of shaving him had its own form of intimacy. Flecks of anger, hate, and fear were scraped off with the shavings.      

He looked me in the eye and asked in a whisper, “Is it a good shave?”  

“It is a great shave,” I whispered in his ear, and I pulled away and looked at this gentleman before me.  He tried to thank me, but his tears won over his fight to speak. He choked on the words. So, he didn’t speak. I didn’t speak. We just looked at each other. I loved him because he let me serve him. I loved him because I realized that he had served me. Many, many men and women have sacrificed so I could enjoy the freedom my country provides.  

As I walked away from the hospital that day I saw the words inscribed over the entrance of every Veterans Hospital, “The Price of Freedom is Visible Here.” I nodded my head in agreement as I walked away. Bill had opened my eyes… and my heart.”

Dear Lord, as we remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice this Memorial Day so we can enjoy freedom every day, we also remember that they followed in the footsteps of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Please put a mighty shield of protection over our service men and women as they serve in this country and around the world for our freedom. When they are done with their assignments bring them home safely to their families. Send a rich blessing on their families, protect their marriages, and their spouses and children. Give each member of the military your wisdom and courage to face each day. Amen.

What can you do, say, or pray to remember Memorial Day?

(To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles, see