Veterans secured freedom that Americans take for granted today

Fourteen thousand college students were recently asked 60 multiple-choice questions to measure their knowledge of American history, government, America's role in the world and the economy.

Among the many worrisome findings, the results showed that only 48 percent of those surveyed knew that the following statement was from the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

Nothing can be more important than reminding us that we are what we are because we are free.

We can learn about these principles from the thousands of veterans among us today. They are witnesses to key moments in American history and how those moments built upon the character and principles of this great nation.

Too often we express regret that we missed an opportunity to have a conversation with those who have experienced something that we can only read about in a history book. We should not miss the opportunity to learn about the sacrifice that they made for our nation and for freedom.

A member of my staff told me that he took a trip alone to Normandy and encountered another tourist as they were walking near Arromanches close to the British landing area at Gold Beach.

He received a priceless history lesson from the gentleman who said that the last time he had been to this area was 45 years earlier on June 6, 1944, when he was 18, not knowing what to expect, scared to death, but steadily moving up the beach toward the enemy.

As they came off boats bringing them to the beaches and cliffs at Normandy, many were violently ill from the rough ride in turbulent seas. Many drowned before getting to shore. They faced withering machine gun fire from protected embankments. They secured the freedom and liberty we all enjoy today.

It is likely that someone you know or who lives in your community was involved in one of the great battles for freedom. If you cannot get a firsthand account from a veteran, I encourage you to visit the Library of Congress Veterans History Project at www.loc.gov/vets.

The project has collected accounts from U.S. veterans from battles in the 20th century. I am grateful that we have preserved them to show a new generation what has been done to preserve freedom.

So when I read another study showing that 28 percent of those college students tested believe that Gettysburg was the battle that brought the American Revolution to an end, I am going to take it as an opportunity to remind students about the Battle of Yorktown, Gettysburg and the Civil War, and that Veterans Day was initially known as Armistice Day marking the end of fighting in World War I

Veterans Day is still a solemn day to honor those who served. We say thank you and hope that future generations may learn from them about their sacrifices and the basics of a free society.

Rep. John Linder, R-Duluth, has served in the House of Representatives since 1992. Have any thoughts about this column? Share them with us at letters@gwinnettdailypost.com. Letters should be no more than 200 words and are subject to approval by the publisher. Letters may be edited for style and space requirements. Please sign your name and provide an address and a daytime telephone number. Address letters for publication to: Letters to the Editor, Gwinnett Daily Post, P.O. Box 603, Lawrenceville, GA 30046-0603. The fax number is 770-339-8081.