Doug Fritz. (Lee Talbert/Johnson City Press)
This child wouldn’t be anything special in most ways, but like others in this era he would be very fortunate. Freedom, in a country teeming with opportunity, would give this boy a head start over a child in a place like Russia — where folks would wait in lines for hours to buy items of food that were running out fast (and even then it must have been like pauper’s stew compared to the richness of an even middle-class American meal).
As the years clicked by and a conflict raged in Vietnam, a shield of freedom allowed this young man to play in the summer parks, run fearlessly through the snow, and grow up somewhat oblivious to the meaning of war.
It was the Fourth of July in 1974, and soon the country would have a new president. Even the spoils of freedom couldn’t prevent an awkward restructuring of the government in mid-stream.
But even with the hierarchy teetering like an ancient pine tree in a mighty wind, the young man played Little League baseball and marveled at the greatness of the Oakland Athletics winning another world title.
Sure, this country had its problems, but his maternal grandfather hadn’t fought in vain all those years ago.
It was the Fourth of July in 1984, and you could smell the sweet breeze of freedom like it was wafting through the air at the county fair.
Ronald Reagan had this country humming along like a Ferrari 288 GTO. Dream chasing was just beginning for this young man, who decided a degree in computer science wasn’t his best bet. Oops.
But that was another great thing about freedom. A young man could swing and miss, but still find his way around the bases.
Who didn’t love the NBA’s Celtics-Lakers showcase? And the Washington Redskins were in the Joe Gibbs heyday.
And the young man’s uncle hadn’t served his country in vain.
It was the Fourth of July in 1994, and for some reason time was moving much faster.
Freedom had to fight for itself a few years earlier, but once again life in this country was so grand it was possible to miss out on the pageantry.
The still young man, caught between youth and middle age, sometimes struggled with the odd picture freedom sometimes painted. A superstar on field and film would fall from grace in the most gruesome way. And just a couple of months later, some of the richest people in the country would exercise their freedom not to “work” by prematurely ending a season of the greatest game this country ever produced. No World Series — in the heart of the Atlanta Braves’ heyday.
It still makes little sense, but this man’s good friend didn’t serve in Desert Storm in vain.
It was the Fourth of July in 2004. Freedom looked a lot different these days. Getting on a plane no longer was a routine process, and by now it wasn’t “if” there was going to be another school shooting, but “when.”
Really for the first time in this man’s life, it seemed like America was losing its firm grasp on the world. It wasn’t so much that freedom was crumbling, but more so the underpinning didn’t seem to have the same level of tensile strength.
Google became another word for billionaire, and Babe Ruth — that old rascal — finally decided the Red Sox had suffered long enough for making him a Yankee.
It was the Fourth of July in 2014, and that once-little boy still had the power to act, speak or think as he wanted. He watched a small parade go down his street, and wondered if the young kids on their flag-clad bicycles even had a clue about the price of freedom.
Yes, freedom is a giant blessing for our time on earth. But the greatest freedom lies beyond that time, and the price paid for that was far greater than all wars combined.
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