I never had the honor of meeting Emily Jazmin Tatum Perez.
By all accounts she was smart, athletic, compassionate, and a good soldier of both her God and the land she loved.
Perez is being honored this Sunday for the precious gift that she and her fellow soldiers secure for all of us — the gift of freedom.
Perez dressed in her West Point finest graces one of the panels of the Traveling Tribute listing the names of more than 7,000 men and women who have fallen in the Global War on Terror. That panel is being re-dedicated at 1 p.m. Sunday during Memorial Weekend Commemoration ceremonies at Woodward Park in her honor as well as in honor of her fallen brothers and sisters.
It is all too easy to forget the sacrifices of Perez and others. Those of us who have not served in war too often take for granted the freedoms and liberties we enjoy.
The freedom of speech wasn’t secured by an online petition. It was secured by the blood of a soldier.
The freedom of religion wasn’t secured by the American Civil Liberties Union. It was secured by the blood of a soldier.
The freedom of being secure in our homes and in our personnel effects wasn’t obtained through a Congressional act. It was secured by the blood of a soldier.
There is a fallacy that the freedoms we all cherish and use every day without giving them a second thought are somehow the norm in the annals of mankind.
The radical words penned 238 years ago embraced ideas that had existed for centuries but the concept they represented were rarely shared with the masses and never applied universally.
The only reason that words in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were given life is because soldiers gave their lives. Tyrants nor did benevolent dictators grant our freedoms and liberties.
Evil men — for want of a better catch phrase — are always threatening to snuff out freedom that is flickering like a candle in the wind.
Too many of us believe that America’s freedoms can stand if the world was engulfed in darkness where all others are subservient to the will of a handful of powerful elitists who secure their power by force and outright deceit. That doesn’t mean America should rush to war at the drop of a pin. It’s just that freedom ultimately won’t survive here if we stand by and watch as it is snuffed out elsewhere around the globe.
Diplomats and leaders can posture all they want but they are not the ones that stop the wholesale enslavement or even slaughter of people. That job is left up to the soldier.
We owe being free Americans today to men and women like Perez.
Just like the revolutionary citizen soldiers that laid down their lives for generations of Americans yet to come, Perez did the same eight years ago in Iraq.
We must never forget the sacrifices of Perez and the 1.3 million who have fallen since 1776. Nor should we forget the 2.7 million wounded or the countless others who have served America since the nation’s inception.
Serving to secure our freedoms of Americans is the highest secular calling that one can make. The sacrifice of those who returned and those that did not should be revered by all of us.
Equally important, though, is making sure we don’t take those freedoms Perez and her fellow soldiers secured for granted.
In recent years many of us have made a deal of sorts with the devil. We have gladly allowed freedoms to be chipped away at in exchange for a sense of security. Patrick Henry declared, “Give me liberty or give me death.” He did not say, “Give me liberty but because I’m afraid of dying compromise the freedoms of others as well as myself as much as the government determines is necessary.”
Perez didn’t want to do die. She had a promising life ahead of her.
What she died for is far more valuable than anything the Silicon Valley can produce or Warren Buffet could possibly purchase.
Yet we act as if we are willing to give much of the gift she gave us back because we won’t stand up to the slow erosion of either our rights or the rights of others.
We need to think about what Perez and 1.3 million other Americans did for us — people they never met.
We need to treat that gift for the priceless thing that it is.
And on Sunday as a community we need to make David and Vicki Perez — the parents of fallen Lieutenant Emily Jazmin Tatum Perez — understand how we will always be grateful and humbled for the sacrifice that both they and their daughter made on behalf of Americans everywhere as well as Americans yet to be born.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.