Samuel Baisden with his parents, James and Rhonda Baisden, and his sister, Sarah Jane, after Samuel was sworn into the U.S. Naval Academy on Thursday, June 29, 2023, in Annapolis, Maryland. (Photo provided)

Samuel Baisden with his parents, James and Rhonda Baisden, and his sister, Sarah Jane, after Samuel was sworn into the U.S. Naval Academy on Thursday, June 29, 2023, in Annapolis, Maryland. (Photo provided)

Something to consider for July Fourth

  • By RHONDA BAISDEN
  • Monday, July 3, 2023 5:26pm
  • Opinion

Our country celebrates our independence this week. This year the festivities feel different to me than previous years.

Patriotism ran heavily in the community where I was born and raised. Veterans made up much of the older population to the point I just assumed that service was something everyone committed to at some point in their lives.

As I aged, I’ve come to realize that isn’t the case. At the entrance to our high school campus sat a Doughboy statue serving as a reminder to sacrifices previous generations made to our country. I would say a quiet thanks to it each time I passed by.

I hold the generations before mine in high regard for their service to our country, some were drafted while others volunteered. I gained a new level of respect when my fiance at the time chose to voluntarily enlist. I recall my heart was heavy with grief knowing we would be apart for however long the Air Force required.

Looking back, it was a decision that changed the trajectory of our lives and lifted us out of an impoverished and dying region of Appalachia.

Last week I found a level of respect for our service members I had never experienced as I watched our middle child, blood of my blood and bone of my bone, swear to uphold and defend our Constitution as others of previous generations have done. His commitment hit me to my core as I felt the weight of the sacrifices of generations make a full circle around my soul as a mother.

Our son was one of 1,100 “plebes” to be inducted into the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Other mothers, like me, shuffled around the “yard” struggling to maintain composure, hoping to get glimpses of our children as they began the process of learning the life of a Midshipman and becoming the next link to serve in the Navy or Marines.

If you were lucky, you’d get to see your newly shaved, shorn, uniformed and shellshocked child receive direct “encouragement” from the upperclassmen, which are called Detailers. Students at U.S.N.A. receive four years of college in return for five to eight years service to our country, depending on their career path.

One parent described it as not “free” college, but a deferred payment plan where the cost could ultimately be your child’s life. Being accepted isn’t easy, the class of 2027 has a 7% acceptance rate which compares to many Ivy League institutions.

History and tradition run exceptionally deep in Annapolis, Maryland, as it held a significant role in the founding of our country as our country’s first capital before Washington, D.C., and meeting place for the Continental Congress and signing of the Treaty of Paris.

Our son’s education is housed on the same roads and buildings where our forefathers faced fears and fought for the idea of freedom they had never known. Reverence for those in history whose sacrifice is still reflected in the freedoms we have today is palpable on the cobblestone streets.

Honor, courage and commitment have always been part of my respect for our country. But this year, I have real flesh and bone, I have one which I carried, delivered and nurtured, I have a new level of motherly love that is a hard reality of potential loss. It’s the level that you let go and let God take your child where he is destined.

This Fourth of July consider our freedoms; why and how do we have them? Freedom isn’t free, it’s been paid for by generations of sacrifice. God bless all those who love our country above yourself by keeping the Fourth of July and every other day free. We honor willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice!

GO NAVY/BEAT ARMY.

Rhonda Baisden lives in Kenai. Samuel Baisden is in the U.S. Naval Academy Class of 2027.

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