Closing the ‘Liberty’ circle

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol
  • U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center Public Affairs
All the way up to Jersey City, wet snow pelted our Jeep's windshield with some of the biggest snowflakes I've seen in years.

The snow made traveling north on the Jersey Turnpike from McGuire Air Force Base a little slower Jan. 19, but I knew our destination would make the tougher traveling conditions a little easier to bear.

Considering it was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday and a national holiday, I wanted to take my family someplace special to mark the day and go somewhere we've never been. On this day, we went to Liberty State Park.

Liberty State Park is on the New Jersey side of New York Harbor, less than 2,000 feet from the Statue of Liberty. It's also near Ellis Island, the place where millions of immigrants were processed years ago upon entering the United States.

When we got to Liberty State Park, it was still snowing. The park itself was practically empty. There were a few families playing in the snow-covered landscape and the occasional person walking a dog. We seemed to have the place to ourselves.

I walked with my wife, two daughters and son from the car straight to where we could see the Statue of Liberty. This was the first time wed been this close to it.

Immediately, I felt like I'd been here before. As I stared at Lady Liberty, I thought about my great-grandfather. Perhaps he, too, gazed at this landmark statue as I was.

In a way, I felt anxious about being there. The reason for the ill feeling dawned on me a short time later when I looked at the buildings on Ellis Island. It was about my great-grandfather.

In December 1899, my great-grandfather Henrick Storgard (later changed to Henry Sturkol) came to America aboard a ship with many other immigrants. His first stop here was just across the water from where I stood. In a way, it was like life was making a big circle 110 years in the making.

I imagined this young, 17-year-old kid from Finland seeing New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty for the first time -- much like I was that day. I can imagine his excitement and perhaps apprehension as he deliberated his future in America.

Would he be proud that a fourth generation of his namesake had made it back to the spot in America that had first seen? Thoughts of Great-grandpa Storgard triggered a whirlwind of emotions.

Standing on the edge of history made me proud to be an American, and a United States Air Force Airman. I am proud that I am the first in my family to make the Air Force a career, becoming one of many defenders of liberty.

How many Airmen, Sailors, Soldiers and Marines have died to protect the liberty Americans enjoy? Seeing the Statue of Liberty and thinking about that reminded me that liberty and freedom, are not free.

Great-grandpa Storgard did make his place in America. His son was my grandfather Arne who in turn had a son -- my father, David. And the story goes on. I think my 12-year-old son, Jackson Henry Sturkol, said it best when he looked at the Statue of Liberty and said, "She sure is beautiful."

I agree. Liberty is beautiful, and I am glad that I have not only the honor of living in the country that offers it so readily, but I also have a career that allows me to defend it.

That day closed the "Liberty" circle for me in many ways, but most of all, it made me proud of who I am, and glad that I'm an American Airman.