By John R. Stoeffler

I lost my first child on the day I was born on April 19, 1775…I am America. He fell on the green at Lexington, his heart pierced by a British musket ball. Many more of my sons and daughters would fall on that day and in the years to come until the guns grew still and peace came to me on that glorious day at Yorktown.

Eighty-six years later my heart was nearly broken as my sons and daughters donned the blue and grey and took up arms against each other. At Manassas, Missionary Ridge and elsewhere my children fell. And I grieved. During this devastating time, my son Abraham Lincoln eloquently expressed my feelings at a place called Gettysburg when he pledged that those who had fallen “shall not have died in vain; and that Government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

Fifty-two years had passed when I was called upon to aid my cousins in Europe. This time my children crossed the sea and “over there” at places like the Somme and the Meuse-Argonne many gave their last great measure of personal sacrifice to stem tyranny’s tide.

In the 1940s my children became embroiled in the biggest war the world has ever known. From a harbor called Pearl to Iwo Jima, Anzio, Bataan, and Bastogne they fought and died that the peal of freedom’s bell would not be stilled. And only then, when it was done, did Johnny come marching home again.

In 1950, my loved ones were again off to stay tyranny’s iron hand in a faraway place called Korea. At places with names like Pork Chop Hill and Heartbreak Ridge did my children again fight and die for freedom, and again I wept for those who fell.

In the 60s and 70s my children took up arms in freedom’s name. From the Mekong to the DMZ to a valley called the Ia Drang many gave some and some gave all. The pride I have in them for the courage and the sacrifice each made has never faded.

Since Vietnam, more of my sons and daughters have given their all on freedom’s behalf in places with equally strange sounding names like Mosul, Fallujah, the Korengal Valley and Helmand Province.

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There are those who hate me and what I stand for. Given the chance they would snuff out the inseparable essentials of my existence, liberty and freedom. They have different names and faces, but their nefarious goal remains the same – to destroy my children and me. Nothing made this so clear as the attack on September 11, 2001 when those dark forces ended the lives of nearly 3,000 of my children for the sole reason that they are Americans.

For some, time passes and memories fade, but through all this I tell you that I remember each of these my children. The faces of those who fell at Bunker Hill are as fresh in my mind today as those who perished at Gettysburg, Chateau-Thierry, Normandy, Pusan, Baghdad, and, yes, on United Flight 93. I know of the dreams each had for their family, and those their family had for them. And where they now lie, be it in my bosom or in some distant land makes no difference as every name and face is forever etched in my mind and heart.

No, I can never forget these my children for I AM AMERICA, and I shall always remember.