Memorial Day message: 'The price of freedom is not free'

DAYTONA BEACH -- When the parades are over, the picnics cleared and the echo of the speeches having died down, I can only hope that we, as a nation, will truly remember what this day was set aside for. Memorial Day is a special day for me and so many other veterans. The day when we remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our nation's freedom.

It sounds so cliché, but it is true: The price of freedom is not free!

Let me take you back in time to 2004, and Iraq. A transportation unit was moving supplies in the direction of Baghdad. It was a routine trip, which this particular convoy had previously made before, and led by a seasoned soldier, Sergeant First Class Robert Durenda.

The troops had been moving along without incident, but just a few miles outside of the capital, the ever-alert SFC Durenda yelled one word over the radio that brought the convoy of vehicles to a screeching halt.

"Ambush!" 

The soldiers dismounted and used the vehicles as cover from the incoming barrage of bullets As Durenda himself jumped from his own vehicle, he knew immediately that what next came into his line of vision was no mistake and instinct took over.

“Bomb!” he screamed, and as the troops under his command took cover, he threw himself onto the roadside device, knowing his fate would lessen the casualties of his brethren. Many were injured, but far more would have died that day, if it had not been for the selfless act of SFC Robert Durenda. This man was a hero, a soldier, a son. He was my friend.

“Bomb!” he screamed, and as the troops under his command took cover, he threw himself onto the roadside device, knowing his fate would lessen the casualties of his brethren. Many were injured, but far more would have died that day, if it had not been for the selfless act of SFC Robert Durenda. This man was a hero, a soldier, a son. He was my friend.

We served together served in the 101st Airborne Division. As a matter of fact, he and I shared a room in the barracks. We trained together, complained about the lousy food to each other, but most importantly, Bob Durenda had my back and I had his because that is what a soldier does for his buddy. He was even a groomsman at my wedding. A true friend.

We served together for two years, then I went to Korea. Bob will always be in my memories and his sacrifice will always be remembered as his name is etched on the Wall.

At 10 a.m. Monday, I will be speaking at the Port Orange City Veterans Memorial Park, on City Center Drive. This is where I will be remembering all those who have paid the "ultimate price for our freedom," and of course, I will pay respect to my friend Bob.

I encourage everyone to take some time to go to a memorial ceremony and pay your respects. While you are there, and every day from now on, please thank a veteran for his or her service. Believe me, it means a lot to us all, to just be appreciated.

I encourage everyone to take some time to go to a memorial ceremony and pay your respects. While you are there, and every day from now on, please thank a veteran for his or her service. Believe me, it means a lot to us all, to just be appreciated.

So on this day as you watch a parade, or listen to a speech, or perhaps later as you are flipping burgers on the grill or heading to the beach with your family; or whatever else you have planned on your day off from work, please take a moment to reflect -- to pay your respects to our honored dead.

Jason Davis
Volusia County Chair
 
Editor's Note: Headline Surfer thanks County Chair Davis -- himself a combat-wounded vet of the Gulf War and subsequent recipient of the Bronze Star for valor -- for taking the time to impart this all-important message in remembrance of our war dead and for sharing his personal thoughts on the ultimate sacrifice made by his dear friend, Sergeant First Class Robert Durenda. 
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County Chair Jason Davis writes his occasional column exclusively for Headline Surfer, the Award-Winning 24/7 Internet News Outlet Serving Greater Daytona Beach via HeadlineSurfer.com.