Freedom isn’t free. Never has been, never will be. Very special warriors have provided freedom at supreme sacrifice since time immemorial. Good people will never forget, and we celebrate Memorial Day with a hard-charging spirit in appreciation for hard-charging warriors.
With his lifeblood pouring out of him from a mortal RPG wound to center mass, Pvt. 1st Class Todd Balding from Texas was, on the surface, but a bundle of red gauze and bandages, a jumble of tubes and numerous electronic apparatus beeping away. He was surrounded by a dedicated team of U.S. military medical experts at the Landstuhl hospital in Germany doing everything in their power to save the young American’s life.
Toby Keith and I literally stood in the young hero’s blood and said a very solemn prayer. Moments later, Pvt. 1st Class Todd Balding died. He was 21 years-old. He died fighting for freedom. That was one of many defining moments that struck me deep inside during my USO tour in 2004, and a defining moment in my life.
Toby and I were humbled beyond words to be allowed to join a presentation guard of warriors on the tarmac of the Iraq air base as we saluted a procession of flag-draped coffins being loaded onto a massive C-130 aircraft. Like our tears, the coffins just kept coming - and coming and coming and coming.
When I received the call, I immediately sent out an all-points bulletin to my management, staff and family to clear my schedule of all events. Within an hour, I had arranged a private plane, guitars and various electronic sound equipment. I had been requested to perform the national anthem and my song “Fred Bear” by Navy SEAL hero Chris Campbell in his will. How could I not honor his request. Regrettably, Chris Campbell’s dying request was thwarted by a politically correct bureaucrat, we believe by his commander in chief. On the night of his public memorial, all alone, I played the songs anyway in his honor in my home.
When I’m asked to play our national anthem I don’t just hit the notes and rush through the song so a game can be played or an event consummated. I play the song so it moves me. I play it the way Chris Campbell and all those amazing warriors in all those flag-draped coffins would want me to. I play it every night onstage when touring across the land to honor all those wonderful American warriors who paid the ultimate sacrifice so that you and I can live free and pursue our American dreams. On this Memorial Day, teach your children that freedom isn’t free.
Find the Memorial Day service at the Tomb of Unknowns on television and watch it with your children. Tell your children that many heroes have paid for their freedom with their lives. Remember U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Eric MacRae, who left behind a wife and children. Say a prayer for his family. Say a prayer for all the fallen warriors and the families they left behind.
There is no national holiday more revered in the Nugent household than Memorial Day. We live to celebrate Memorial Day every day. We will forever know that the ultimate sacrifices of these brave warriors have kept us free and the world a better, safer place. We know the American warrior has liberated more people from tyranny and evil in the history of the world than all other militaries and governments combined.
Tonight, I will play a blistering version of our national anthem as my family gathers to remember. I will play it like never before and dedicate it to Navy SEAL Chris Campbell and all those who gave all. May God eternally bless the American warriors who gave all. Happy Memorial Day, America. Never forget.
Ted Nugent is an American rock ‘n’ roll, sporting and political activist icon. He is the author of “Ted, White, and Blue: The Nugent Manifesto” and “God, Guns & Rock ‘N’ Roll” (Regnery Publishing).