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Dear Abby: I think it would be a good idea to reprint the "freedom poem" that appeared in your column several years ago. Because of the recent war in Iraq, it couldn't be more timely. Thanks, Abby.

-- Mrs. Inez M. Barrow, Waterford, Mich.

Dear Mrs. Barrow: Because today is Armed Forces Day, I agree that the poem is timely. It was written in 1988 by a high school ROTC cadet major named Kelly Strong. Read on:

I watched the flag pass by one day.

It fluttered in the breeze.

A young Marine saluted it,

And then he stood at ease.

I looked at him in uniform

So young, so tall, so proud,

With hair cut square and eyes alert,

He'd stand out in any crowd.

I thought how many men like him

Had fallen through the years.

How many died on foreign soil?

How many mothers' tears?

How many pilots' planes shot down?

How many died at sea?

How many foxholes were soldiers' graves?

No, freedom is not free.

I heard the sound of "Taps" one night,

When everything was still.

I listened to the bugler play

And felt a sudden chill.

I wondered just how many times

That "Taps" had meant "Amen,"

When a flag had draped a coffin

Of a brother or a friend.

I thought of all the children,

Of the mothers and the wives,

Of fathers, sons and husbands

With interrupted lives.

I thought about a graveyard

At the bottom of the sea,

Of unmarked graves in Arlington.

No, freedom is not free.

-- Cadet Maj. Kelly Strong, Air Force Junior ROTC, Homestead Senior High School, Homestead, Fla., 1988

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