Archived Story

Say thanks to those who make freedom possible

Published 4:49pm Wednesday, July 2, 2014

When it comes to Independence Day, most people think about fireworks, flags, barbecue and fun in the sun.
Don’t get me wrong, I will eat barbecue with the best of them and I love to watch things blow up almost as much as I like wearing my hole-filled P.E. shorts and sitting in a recliner.
So while this Friday I will take part in those holiday traditions I’m sure. But when days where America celebrates its freedom, I can’t help but think about a young man I didn’t get to know until after he was dead.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Joshua J. Bowden was just Josh to all who knew him and loved him. He was from the tiny Georgia town of Villa Rica and before joining the Army he was an all-county soccer star in Douglas County. He was so competitive that he didn’t care if it was soccer or a watermelon seed-spitting contest – he played to win.
That spirit served him well as he went on to be a Junior Olympic karate champion.  He was an adventurer even as a younger man. Legend has it that he once took his mother’s car and took off chasing a storm. He was fascinated by lightning and while trying to get to a far-off bolt, he wrecked the car. He had some trouble justifying that one.
But Josh wanted to make a difference and joined the Army. He wanted to do what was needed to help his country and people in countries with names he couldn’t even spell be free.
He paid the ultimate price, and was killed Aug. 31, 2013 in Ghazni, Afghanistan, when his unit was riddled by small arms fire while on dismounted patrol.
A brave young man taken too soon, working for his country and for each and every one of us.
I just wish that I had seen him play soccer or held his little boy. They say no matter what he did, he always worked with all his heart to be the best that he could be. It didn’t matter if it was as a soccer player, father or as a soldier — he lived life to its fullest. Sounds like a guy we would have all wanted to know.
Instead of shaking his hand or talking World Cup with him, I met him through a camera view finder and through the words of his family and friends. I saw Bowden’s family at Fulton County Airport-Charlie Brown Field after his remains had been carried by color guard into the awaiting hearse. I found tears rolling down my face as I took pictures of Josh’s young son Kaden, dressed in a sweater vest and clinging to his mother’s hand as they walked in a large group to cars for the procession.
Those were images of the price of freedom. Being able to say what you want, do what you want and eat ribs until you have to collapse in the recliner only comes because people like Josh Bowden fought for us all.
Locally we have people like fallen Marines Lance Cpl. John T. Sims Jr., who died in Iraq in 2004 and Staff Sgt. Stacy Green,  who died fighting for freedom in 2010 while deployed to Afghanistan.
So on July 4, in between dips in the lake and before the fireworks, think about all those serving now and for generations – the brave men and women who make Independence Day possible. Better yet, if you know a veteran or a person currently serving, call them and thank them now.
I wish I could have told Josh thank you face to face. I waited too long.
Today, let’s not wait for these brave folks to come home covered in a flag to say what’s in your heart.
Sneed is the editor at Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.