Freedom is not free
That is the name of a poem written by Kelly Strong. It reminds us of the sacrifices so many of our families make in the name of freedom. Freedom that we all enjoy as citizens of the United States of America.
My grandparents made that sacrifice, sending all five of their sons off to serve for the freedoms we at times take for granted. My grandparents had six boys. One was killed as a boy crossing the street to the neighborhood market. The others went on to serve our country. I would like to tell you a little about them:
The eldest son was Jerome Clifford Karch. He was a Pfc. in the US Army during WWII. He served in the 96th Inf. Div. in the Philippines and Okinawa. He received a Bronze Star and two Purple Heart medals. The Bronze Star was for his acts of bravery carrying supplies across 300 yards of open field completely covered by machine gun and rifle fire. He performed this hazardous feat during an extended period from April–June 1945.
Marion Joseph Karch was next, serving as a Pfc. in the US Army Medical Corps from 1945 to 1946 during WWII. He was just 1 ½ months past his 18th birthday. Can you imagine going off to serve at that young age, but we ask our young boys to do it all the time. He began his service as a phlebotomist at a VA hospital, and moved into the urology ward at Camp Meed, MD. In researching this article, my uncle proudly pulled out a picture of him standing strong and tall wearing all white with Major Bell, the physician he served with.
Chester Leonard Karch served next as a Pfc, US Army Chemical Corps. from 1950-1952. His basic training along with Chemical Corps. training was closer to home at Camp McCoy, WI. He then went on to Camp McClellan, AL. As part of his work at Camp McClellan he participated in chemical warfare training, processing clothing which would be used in the event of chemical warfare and training others to do the same. His group helped out wherever needed, including fighting forest fires and as guards.
Next came my dad, LeRoy Paul Karch, CPL, US Army during the Korean War from 1952 to 1954. He began with basic training in Breckinridge, KY, and went on to mechanics school in Etajima, Japan. He served for 18 months for the 8138th hospital train in Pusan, Korea as a small vehicle mechanic working on tanks, jeeps and trucks. He was there in ’53 during the Pusan fire, which began in substandard housing before spreading to and engulfing the harbor. I can only imagine him helping and doing what he could for the 28,000 who became homeless as 3000 homes were lost. My dad later went on to become a carpenter, perhaps because of those early experiences.
The youngest brother enlisted and served from 1955 to 1976, following the example of his older brothers. His name was Lawrence Felix Karch. He attained the rank of First Sergeant serving in the Berlin Brigade working Checkpoint Charlie, guarding secure missile sites and serving as warden of Spandau prison in West Berlin. During that time, he had daily interactions with Nazi war criminals Rudolph Hess and Albert Speer from the Nuremberg trials. He served 3 tours of duty in Germany including Berlin, Nuremberg and Bad Toelz. In ‘69/’70, he served the 82nd Airborne Div. in Vietnam, and was awarded four Battle Star medals. His daughter was born while he was serving in Vietnam, and he was finally able to meet her during a holiday leave when she was three months old. He also served as First Sergeant for Army Military Police School.
All five of these brothers served in The American Legion. Upon retiring, Larry served as commander of the Legion for 12 years in Rosholt, WI, where he made his final home. The other brothers served in leadership positions and as commander of the Legion in Butler, WI.
I am so proud of how all these brothers served their country. Can you imagine being parents of five boys and seeing each one go off to war; one returning and the next leaving?
And so back to our poem and the eternal gratitude deeply felt in our hearts for all those who have served our great nation:
…I thought, how many men like him
Had fallen through the years?
How many died on foreign soil?
How many mother’s tears?
How many Pilots’ planes shot down?
How many foxholes were soldiers’ graves?”
No, Freedom is not free ...