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""The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.""
– Abraham Lincoln  
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  Volume No. 18 Issue No. 9 September 2021  

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  Freedom isn’t free
  By Mark Stoller

   Mark Stoller moved to Falcon in 2007. He and his wife, Andra, both U.S. Air Force veterans, enjoy life with their daughters, extended family and adopted rescue dogs in Latigo. Mark savors the privilege of his wife and daughters being his muse for topics, people to meet and places to investigate.
While bantering back and forth on topics for our article and column, Ava told me, “You know you’ve been kinda all over the place this year.” To which I am thinking, “Hello! Meandering is part of the column title.”
   
   She reminded me it has been a while since I had written a column in line with a significant holiday. Continuing, she stated, “4th of July. You know as well as anyone that freedom isn’t free.”
   
   Indeed, I have witnessed the price of freedom firsthand during two combat tours for Operation Iraqi Freedom. During my second Iraq tour, in 2007, I was assigned to a task force to counter improvised explosive devices, also known as roadside bombs. It was an especially brutal deployment with an incredible amount of death and destruction.
   
   I was an Air Force Intelligence Officer supporting a U.S. Navy aviation unit conducting the electronic warfare mission for the U.S. Army. Our mission was to deter and neutralize the roadside bombs activated by electric initiators e.g., key fobs, garage door openers, cell phones, etc.
   
   The bombs were catastrophic in their effects and frequently used to draw in American forces for an even bigger ambush. I carry with me the full extent of their destructive effects as I investigated and reported on the aftermath of these attacks to develop assessments on enemy tactics, techniques and procedures.
   
   My story is far from unique. There is a newly released book I highly recommend you read, “Walk in My Combat Boots.”
   
   From the inside cover: “Walk in My Combat Boots” is a powerful collection crafted from hundreds of original interviews by James Patterson, the world’s No. 1 bestselling writer, and First Sgt. U.S. Army Ret. Matt Eversmann, who was part of the Ranger unit portrayed in the movie Black Hawk Down.
   
   These are the brutally honest stories usually only shared among comrades in arms. Here, in the voices of the men and women who have fought overseas, from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan, is a rare eye-opening look into what wearing the uniform, fighting in combat, losing friends and coming home is really like. Readers who thank a military member for their service next time will finally have a true understanding of what that thanks is for.
   
   Another concept that stuck with me comes from Mark Owen’s book, “No Easy Day – The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama Bin Laden.”
   
   Owen writes, “I challenge every person who reads this to sacrifice something as well … . Don’t just live, but live for a purpose bigger than yourself. Be an asset to your family, community and country.”
   
   For me, I made the decision two years ago to become an emergency medical technician as part of my own recovery from the hauntings of war. I came home while others paid the ultimate sacrifice defending freedom. Thus, I want to do something special with my life to honor the fallen.
   
   I have worked weekends for Dispatch Health, providing urgent care medical capabilities for people in their homes. The connection with my patients and helping them on their worst day has inspired me to further pursue a career in medicine.
   
   I am in Pikes Peak Community College’s pre-nursing program to increase my medical skill set and continue to care for others.
   
   By the time I finish with the nursing program, our daughters will be in college or off on their own adventures. My end goal is to become a travel nurse and go where there is a need.
   
   As you go about your life, please remember the daily freedoms we enjoy were bought and paid for by the fullest measure of sacrifice.
  
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