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Some of you may remember hearing the story of Peter Fetcher, an 18-year-old young man trapped behind the Berlin Wall in East Germany. Peter and his close friend, Helmut Kulbeik, yearned to be free from communist oppression. They dreamed of America – the land of freedom and opportunity. Their desire for freedom was so strong that they finally determined there was no cost too great to obtain it.
On August 17, 1962 the two young men left their bricklaying job for a lunch break and hurried to a little-used factory near Checkpoint Charlie that gave an easy view of the Berlin Wall just a few hundred yards away. Their intent was to wait until dusk to make their break, but around 2pm they heard voices close by and decided to make a break for it. They squeezed through a small window, hurtled over a barbed wire fence, and darted across the death strip toward freedom, Peter in the lead.
Sprinting past Peter, Helmut reached the wall first and scaled the 6-foot barrier crowned with barb wire as bullets peppered the ground and cement around them. Just as Peter reached the wall, he felt a piercing pain in his back, then another in his leg. He stumbled and then fell next to the wall.
Watching the horrific scene West Berliners, just feet away, were unable to help the dying young man who cried out in pain. Peter Fetcher's journey had ended just feet from freedom. Around the world the eyes and hearts of millions of people watched in stunned stillness as newspapers and television stations reported in fifty languages the incredible story of Peter and his desperate journey toward freedom. Millions listened to the recorded words of his friend who had escaped.
"We wanted to go to America! It was worth it to us! We would do anything! We wanted to go to America!"
What does America mean to you?
For billions of people around the world America has been, and still is, a beacon of hope – a dream that burns within their hearts. This generation has been blessed to largely inherit the freedoms we enjoy, but freedom demands a price and every generation must pay it.