Christopherson: Remember sacrifices of Americans who answered freedom’s call

Christopherson: Remember sacrifices of Americans who answered freedom's call Lt. Col. Ruth Christopherson of the 114th Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard in Sioux Falls addresses Monday's Memorial Day services at the Clay County Veteran's Memorial in Vermillion. by David Lias Lt. Col. Ruth Christopherson has been a member of the 114th Fighter Wing of the South Dakota Air National Guard for 26 years.

As a logistics officer, she's been involved in sending fellow Guard members to places far from home, to train and serve.

She found herself a bit unprepared, however, for one of the latest deployments of the South Dakota National Guard.

"The most recent deployment hit a bit closer to home for me," she said, addressing Memorial Day services Monday at the Clay County Veterans Memorial on the grounds of the courthouse in Vermillion. "It was a very different emotion I felt a year ago last February. My son, Nathan, at that time a member of 88th Troop Command, was assisting in the activation of the many Army National Guard members that have been called to serve recently.

"I remember him telling me, 'Mom, if there's a unit activated that needs to have some of their spots filled, and if I qualify to fill those spots, I'm going to volunteer to go.' I remember getting a funny feeling at the time. I get goosebumps thinking about it now," Christopherson said.

Not long after her conversation with her son, Company B of the 109th in Vermillion was activated.

Nathan, who is an EMT, has had paramedic training, and is a nursing student, knew they would be short of medics.

"He offered to go based on his civilian qualifications," Christopherson said. "Needless to say, he was the first to go, and he was reassigned to the 109th.

"The next 14 months were the longest of my life," she said. "As the number of brave men and women who were killed in Iraq grew, my heart would beat heavy for their families. I could feel their loss and I also knew their pride in their loved ones. It's hard to believe how proud you can be of your son or daughter, and at the same time how you can be absolutely scared silly. All you can do is pray for their safe return.

Fortunately, Christopherson said, her son returned to a wonderful homecoming in Vermillion last April.

"The whole town of Vermillion seemed to be in a celebration mood," she said. "You really know how to welcome people home in Vermillion. As a parent and a military member, I give you my sincere thanks for your support and your celebration."

Christopherson said the risks experienced by our military men and women are taken to preserve our freedom. Some have paid the ultimate price. "Our military men and women have been there each time the call has gone out," she said. "Today we take time to honor those who paid for our freedom with their lives." They were all ordinary people, living ordinary lives, who were asked to make extraordinary sacrifices," Christopherson said. "They answered her call to arms, not because they love war, because nothing is more repulsive to the character of a free people then war for war's sake. They answered the call for a higher purpose: to preserve liberty, justice, equality, and the right to live in world free of tyranny."

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