Smithsonian Opens 'Price of Freedom' Exhibit
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2004 Heroes of the past met the heroes of today during the dedication ceremony here for the Smithsonian Institution's exhibition "The Price of Freedom: Americans at War."
Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers tells
the more than 300 people how Americans have given much for many. The occasion
was "The Price of Freedom: Americans at War" exhibit opening ceremony at the
Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History on Nov. 10. Also
pictured on stage is Kenneth E. Behring, donor for the exhibition. Photo by
Tech. Sgt. Sean P. Houlihan, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Today's ceremony dedicated the Kenneth E. Behring Hall of Military History at the National Museum of American History. Behring provided the funds for the exhibition.
Before the event began, soldiers wounded in Iraq undergoing treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center met nine Medal of Honor recipients. "It's a honor to meet you, sir," said a young 2nd Infantry Division soldier to Army Maj. Al Rascon.
"No, corporal. The honor is mine," replied the man who received the Medal of Honor for actions in Vietnam.
The global war on terror was not far from anyone's mind at the dedication. "It's always humbling to be around these heroes," said Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers. "All have paid a price for our freedom and the freedom of millions around the globe. I think if you talk to our troops who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq, you'll see that they really understand what our freedom is worth. They make me proud to wear this uniform."
Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence Small said that war causes changes in society, in economics and in attitudes. "And wars always come with a price, and the price is paid by individuals, not statistics," he said.
Behring said the United States is about freedom. "I know my ancestors, like yours, traveled to this country, and they went through many hardships," he said. "They had no money, lost babies on the way, but they came because this country is free. This country is opportunity."
Behring said Americans pulled together because the idea of freedom is so strong. "When we really get pushed by somebody, we all get together, and we make sure that our country remains free," he said.
The exhibition has more than 850 artifacts, but it is not the things that tell the stories; rather, it is the people. "Some memories are bittersweet, some are difficult to bear," said Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. "Yet many of us know the best footpath beyond war is not to dwell on our experiences, but to draw from them.
"That is the gift of this exhibition," he noted. "It tells a story that is uniquely American and that will embolden and enlighten as only the American experience can."
Ridge asked people to look at the faces in the photographs in the exhibition. "It is there that you will find the real story of America," he said. "Because while the uniforms and weaponry of war have changed over the years, the people and the soldiers of this great republic have not."
He said the exhibition depicts the legacy of freedom handed down by veterans, and that Americans are not about to let that legacy be dishonored. He said Americans will continue to do everything protect freedom. "We will meet brutality with justice, we will protect our people with all our effort," he said. "We will live in freedom and we will never let that freedom go."
Myers said America's sons and daughters have indeed paid a high price for freedom. "We must remember that war is never glorious, that it is a terrible thing, and brutal and tragic," he said. "And many of you in this audience know it firsthand. But the flag behind me and the people whose stories that are told in this exhibit and the countless American graves around the world serve as reminders of the willingness to bear this burden of defending liberty.
"As chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff," the general continued, "I can tell you this legacy is being carried on very honorably by our current generation of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen."