"Freedom is not free." Those words carved into the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., are not about the cost of defending our freedom, but about the ultimate sacrifice paid by our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen killed in combat.

This Memorial Day we honor those who have died in service to our country and thank those who currently serve in our armed forces.

It is startling to realize that less than one percent of our population make 100 percent of the sacrifices to keep our nation safe and free.

They and their families rightfully deserve our gratitude and respect this special weekend, which too often just celebrates the advent of summer.

The Citadel has a special connection with Memorial Day. Citadel graduates have served in every war since the Mexican War where J.H. Howell became our first alumnus to fall in battle on Nov. 6, 1847. He died less than a year after graduating with The Citadel's first Class of 1846.

This weekend we will honor those members of our "Long Gray Line" who have given their lives in service to our country, especially the 18 heroes from the classes of 2003-2013 who have died since 9/11.

This year 241 Citadel graduates will take the oath and be commissioned into military service. I am proud of these young men and women who are eager to serve their country; yet I am mindful of the dangers they will face on our behalf.

People often think those in the military are pro-war, but those who serve know firsthand the horrors of war and understand it should be used only as a last resort.

As Gen. Douglas MacArthur so aptly stated in his famous Farewell Speech at West Point in 1962, ". the soldier above all other people prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war."

Let us be cognizant that these selfless military men and women were also sons and daughters, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers.

They, too, had planned to spend many Memorial Day Weekends with their loved ones as we will but now are remembered with flowers and wreaths in quiet rest.

This weekend I would ask that you take just a few moments from your celebrations to remember our brave men and women who have worn and wear today the uniform of our armed services and keep in mind that our "freedom is not free."

John W. Rosa

Lieutenant General, U.S. Air Force (Retired)

President, The Citadel

Moultrie Street

Charleston