STEUBENVILLLE - What others have given for freedom was the focus of a speech Sunday by Air Force veteran Wes Hudson during Veterans Day services at the Louis and Sandra Berkman Amphitheater in Historic Fort Steuben Park.
Hudson of Burgettstown was in Air Force security police during his service from 1982 to 2003, retiring as a chief master sergeant.
The ceremony also included the traditional laying of the wreaths by AMVETS Post 275, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 80 and American Legion Posts 33 and 274 to honor veterans and the playing of taps.
MARKING VETERANS DAY — Linda Lancia played taps Sunday during Veterans Day services at the Louis and Sandra Berkman Amphitheater in Historic Fort Steuben Park. The ceremony included Air Force veteran Wes Hudson as the guest speaker and the traditional laying of wreaths to remember veterans. - Mark Law
"As I like to say, our country was founded by people who left or were forced to leave perfectly good countries," Hudson said. "The driving force behind the earliest immigrants was the desire to be free. Freedom from dictators, freedom from religious persecution, freedom from economic oppression and freedom from slavery, to mention a few."
Hudson said the earliest immigrants risked their lives on a long ocean voyage in which many died.
"Rarely did they have a full and complete knowledge of what they would be required to give for this chance at freedom. But they valued it so highly, that they were ready to face the unknown to achieve their goal, and, in doing so. founded a nation that would coalesce diverse cultures under a unifying banner we know as freedom, and lead a nation which valued freedom above all else," Hudson said.
He said the country's leaders wrote the Declaration of Independence.
"Like all good writing, the declaration has an introduction that explains the reason for the declaration, and also begins to define our American views of freedom," he said, including the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. "The declaration then lists the many specifics which the colonies have found to be objectionable. Most of which define the freedoms and rights which were later embodied in the Constitution."
Hudson said after winning their independence, the colonies crafted a Constitution, which he believes embodies three guiding principles that both define and provide the guidance to maintain what the country knows as freedom.
A strong military under civilian control is needed to protect the country and its interests.
A strong and free economy is needed for a country to prosper, and to maintain military strength.
A balanced system of government is needed to both maintain its legitimacy and protect the freedom of its citizens.
Hudson said understanding these principles is what led Abraham Lincoln to prosecute the war between the states.
"Although many people contend the war was fought to free the slaves or the war was a battle of states versus federal rights, the truth was much simpler. Lincoln realized that a fractured union would no longer be able to face future challenges because it would have neither the economic strength, military power or political will to do so. Lincoln endured great political disfavor, personal hardship and ultimately gave his life in support of his principles and freedom," Hudson said.
Hudson said the country is much more aware of recent conflicts from World War II to the war on terror, and the sacrifices made in the name of freedom by the country's brave men and women.
"Millions of Americans sacrificed during World War II, from the soldiers who fought, to the women who worked the factories, to the people that simply did without because of rationing. They realized that the Nazi threat to freedom, as ultimately a threat to all freedom, and acted accordingly," he said.
In Korea, Vietnam and the Cold War, Americans once again sacrificed for the freedom of others, Hudson said.
"And in all conflicts since the Vietnam War, the sacrifices made by our soldiers have been entirely voluntary. And although many of these conflicts have been smaller or casualties lower, the risk was still there. So what do the people in all these examples have in common? They understood the meaning of freedom. They valued freedom, either their own or others, more than their own comfort or safety. They had no idea what they ultimately would be faced with. They did what was asked of them," Hudson said.