Publisher’s Perspective: On freedom and sacrifices (opinion) | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Publisher’s Perspective: On freedom and sacrifices (opinion)

Rob Galloway
rgalloway@tahoedailytribune.com

When our editor and I were discussing the idea of writing a column for the Fourth of July and a topic to write about, we both tongue-in-cheek said we could go the "freedom isn't free" route.

While that's somewhat of a token phrase used during this holiday, I think it resonates with me in a way that maybe most of you haven't heard. Let me explain.

My wife and I lived about 8 miles from each other growing up in Calaveras County — not too far from Tahoe. While I didn't know her at the time (I'm five years older), our families did cross paths on various occasions.

It wasn't until July 4, 2010 after I had recently divorced, when our paths crossed. And the only reason our paths did cross was because she was back home trying to put her life back together after her husband was killed in Afghanistan by a roadside bomb, leaving behind her and their 1-year-old daughter.

You see, many of us have not experienced loss in that way, including me. I come from a family that knows the military well (a grandfather, two uncles, two fathers, two brothers and currently two nephews). But having been around all of them, nothing was quite like stepping into a roll of a grieving family who had just lost one of their own.

People understand that soldiers fight across the world for our freedom, but what they tend to lose sight of is that the cost of that freedom is never about a single person — it extends far greater.

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In my case, not only was I working to replace a husband and a father, but my wife was adamant that we maintain the relationship with her in-laws — which is absolutely the thing to do. Just because they had lost a son didn't mean that their only granddaughter (at the time) should not be a big part of their lives.

It was tough at first (it still is at times). From my perspective, how do you replace a hero, not seem like you're trying to take his place, and try to move everyone into the new reality, which was my reality? From their perspective, how do we support our son's family so they can move on, and at the same time be accepting of a person who is replacing someone who is irreplaceable?

I don't believe it was easy for anyone. Not that it was made extremely difficult. It's just nobody knew the best way to approach because none of us had been in this situation before. It's a situation that I'm sure happens more often than people want to realize.

My wife is strong, maybe stronger than she realizes. But she is the glue that holds all of this together — the central point that balances all of us. Without her unconditional love for me, her promise to keep her daughter part of her grandparent's lives, and the devotion to ensuring her daughter knows her daddy even though she never really met him, none of this works the way it does.

While I have never served my country by way of the military, I feel that by stepping in and taking care of a family of a fallen soldier, I am serving in a different way. I love my family and extended family no different than if they were my very own from the start and I believe that it is reciprocated.

I share this story because it is important for people to understand that by saying "freedom isn't free," they also understand that freedom isn't singular. It's all of us. It extends past the sacrifices of men and women and beyond — sometimes much farther beyond — than the deepest scar will show.

Remember what it means to be proud. Remember what it means to help. Remember that even though you do not serve in the military, you can make sacrifices. But don't ever forget what it takes to be free.

Publisher Rob Galloway can be reached at rgalloway@tahoedailytribune.com or 530-542-8046.