BRANFORD, Fla. — While serving in Vietnam, Bill Martin never had to fire at an enemy.
However, Martin still served and supported his fellow soldiers on the front line.
Monday morning during a Memorial Day ceremony at the Branford Greenway, Martin questioned whether his fellow United States citizens were upholding the freedoms that those being remembered had fought to protect.
“When we remember those who have fallen, who fought for our rights, who fought for our freedoms, are we living up to their standard?” asked Martin, a member of the Glisson James American Legion Post 59 in Branford, which hosted the ceremony.
“Are we living up to the standards that they fought for? Are we the Americans they wanted us to be? We should be.”
Martin expressed his dismay with certain freedoms — such as the right to bear arms and open and free elections — coming under attack while concerned with what is considered safe and protected free speech during his address at the ceremony, which also included remarks from Branford Town Council President Ken Saunders and Suwannee County Sheriff Sam St. John.
Martin said demonstrations against the American flag should not be considered free speech, nor should someone wearing medals of valor that they didn’t earn.
“How can you live in this country and live under that flag and be protected by what that flag represents and bring it to the ground and disgrace it?” he asked. “Did I fight for that freedom? Did I fight to see the flag on the ground, burning?”
During his welcome speech, Saunders spoke of his joy in seeing the American flags and crosses that line Suwannee Avenue in Branford, a task that the Branford Area Inter Church Ministries performs prior to Memorial Day and the Fourth of July each year.
“The colors flying on the street in honor of the veterans, the ones that are present and the ones that have gone on … I’m very proud that we do that,” Saunders said.
Dr. Jerry Higman, the guest speaker at the Memorial Day ceremony later Monday morning in Live Oak, spoke about those same freedoms and how American forces have helped to try and bring those liberties to other countries, particularly Afghanistan the past two decades.
Higman has worked for 30 years as a Department of Defense employee and recently returned from a deployment in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army, was the featured speaker.
Higman gave an oversight of what U.S. and NATO coalition forces in Afghanistan have accomplished and worked against since the war on terrorism began following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
“Our freedoms are not free,” Higman said at the ceremony in the Veterans Memorial section of the City of Live Oak Cemetery, held by the Harry C. Gray II Memorial American Legion Post 107 and the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 126. “And liberty in this great land of ours must be remembered is everybody’s responsibility.”