I am a retired, disabled veteran who served six years in the U.S. Army and 17½ years in the U.S. Navy. I was involved in every armed conflict from the War in Vietnam to Desert Shield and personally witnessed many Americans paying for our freedom with their lives (the ultimate sacrifice). I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, as well as the rights and freedoms it conveys. I believe strongly in our American freedoms. However, I also recognize that with those freedoms come the responsibilities of citizenship and community and I remain willing to make sacrifices in support of those ideals.

We are once again involved in a war. This time the enemy is a virus. We have been asked to make some small sacrifices (wear a mask, wash your hands often and socially distance). I have witnessed a number of my fellow so-called citizens refusing to follow the mask and other guidelines that have been put forth to battle this virus. I have seen them respond to the offer of a mask with indignation and statements like “Didn’t I wake up in America this morning?” or “Don’t I still have my rights?”

When I see and hear this kind of behavior, I am ashamed of my fellow citizens. Now is the time when we should be banding together as Americans to fight this common enemy. Many people appear to be wrapped up in their own self-interest. The “Greatest Generation” of World War II  was asked to make numerous sacrifices. They endured food and gas rationing. There were metal and other material drives, citizens recycled cooking oil and they were asked to grow victory gardens for their food. Millions of men were drafted to fight a common enemy.

I am a senior citizen with health issues that put me at risk if I contract the virus. When you refuse to wear a mask in public and refuse to socially distance, you put my life at risk as well your own. Land of the free and home of the brave? I don’t think so.

Throughout my life, I have been told that freedom isn’t free. I feel that I have paid a price for that freedom and I am willing to join a common effort to fight this new enemy. I would ask my fellow citizens what price they are willing to pay.

Steven Schwalb, of Front Royal, is a retired disabled veteran of both the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy.