The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


July 4, 2013

Freedom: It’s oh so precious

On this July 4th, messages from abroad and home serve as stark reminders

— We should always appreciate our freedom, but in case we were in danger of taking it for granted, this Fourth of July brings a multitude of reasons why we should celebrate the liberties our nation affords us.

Mike Mastovich’s front-page story in Sunday’s editions of The Tribune-Democrat reminded us of how important freedom is. Actually, it was the actions of a 26-year-old Frenchman, Jeremy Andersen-Bo, that drove home the point.

Andersen-Bo was born and raised in France, but he has a great appreciation for what American soldiers did for his country in World War II. And when he was given a relic – a helmet – from a battle that happened in Golleville, France, nearly 70 years ago, it served as a powerful reminder of the Americans’ heroic actions.

Andersen-Bo discovered the name “Mastovich” inscribed on the neckband inside the helmet and set about finding out who the mystery man that previously wore it was.

Through an exhaustive search, Andersen-Bo was able to determine that John C. Mastovich died from wounds suffered in Golleville and that he had been from Franklin Borough. The Frenchman also was able to locate a Mastovich – our own sports writer – via Facebook and ask him if he was related to the late soldier. He wasn’t, but Mike Mastovich was able to find someone who was: Michael Raich, the 71-year-old nephew of John C. Mastovich.

The news that one of the soldier's relatives had been located was enough to move Andersen-Bo to tears and he immediately reached out to Raich via the Internet to tell John C. Mastovich’s story.

It was an amazing amount of work done by the Frenchman, but one that he felt was necessary.

“I’m just trying to keep the memory alive about the heroes who liberated my country,” Andersen-Bo said.

What a wonderful story to keep in mind as we set about on a day filled with picnics or barbecues and a night bursting with fireworks displays.

The second story that has us thinking about our freedom this Independence Day isn’t quite so heartwarming. It’s the ongoing saga involving the information about the American people gathered by the National Security Agency.

The reports about the monitoring of electronic and telecommunications done by the NSA are a frightening reminder that we need to remain vigilant about our freedoms, even when it comes to our own government.

In celebrating our Independence Day we must not only celebrate the past and the battles already won in our quest for freedom, but also to look ahead to the battles that remain as we continue to seek the liberties that our forefathers did.

Happy Fourth of July.

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