Firearm Industry Remembers The Cost Of Freedom On Memorial Day

By Mark Oliva

iStock-Sviatlana Barchan

I once walked among giants.

It was a brief time – that feels even more brief as the years pass since I wore the uniform of a U.S. Marine. It was just 25 years, and for some, that might seem as if two-and-a-half decades was a lifetime. Looking back, especially on Memorial Day when we pause as a nation to honor those who gave their lives in defense of freedom, my time walking among giants was a moment to stand in awe of these great Americans.

I’m not alone when I tell people that I walked among giants. It’s a phrase I’ve heard many veterans use when they try to capture what Memorial Day means for them. For so many of us in the firearm industry, we know and share this feeling.

We walked among giants.

Those giants grow taller as I grow older. They were fresh-faced men and women from all corners of America. They grew up on Midwest farms, bustling cities, suburbs and everywhere in between. They were American as could be. Some were the second and third generation of their family to serve in the military. Others were immigrants – serving in combat to defend America’s freedoms even before they earned their own citizenship. They were young – some as young as 18. They were sons and daughters. They became family. None of us knew it at the time, but they were giants.

I had the chance to walk in their presence.

Those wars – fought in Iraq and Afghanistan – are now part of history’s lessons. The years since the guns fell silent relentlessly continue. What remains, though, are the memories of those giants. America’s freedoms don’t come without cost.

There is a high toll for the liberties Americans enjoy that’s been paid by these giants. Freedom’s cost isn’t lost on those in the firearm and ammunition industry.

There’s an umbilical connection between the firearm and ammunition industry and the U.S. military. This industry does more than just provide the means for all Americans to exercise their Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms. This industry also equips America’s warfighters with the small arms and ammunition they carry into harm’s way. The rifles, shotguns, handguns and cartridges – essential tools for freedom’s defense – come from our factories.

The firearm and ammunition industry celebrates these freedoms every day. The American flag flies in front of our factories. It is often hung inside the walls. Many of the production facilities proudly display memorabilia gifted to businesses from veterans who have served in war, many from those same veterans who walk the halls and floors that produce the finest firearms and ammunition that Americans use today. The memories of those who fought for freedom and are buried in our nation’s cemeteries are carried with them today.

This industry is especially indebted to those who sacrificed their lives to preserve freedom. This industry would not exist in the form we see it today if it weren’t for those patriots who picked up arms in defense of our values, our freedoms, our families and our neighbors. That radical sense of self-determination was sparked by Minutemen answering freedom’s call on the greens of Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, in 1775. It cost the lives of Americans standing for freedom then and has echoed through generations through today, even as Americans serve in far-flung and remote locations around the globe. That clarion call to freedom’s defense and the high price it takes is why we take one special day to honor these men and women who, despite the cost of their lives, stood in defense of ours.

I’m not alone in saying that I’ve walked among giants. We understand this deep in our souls. The sacrifice these young Americans – these giants – made for all Americans isn’t lost on us. Freedom’s cost was their lives. That’s why on Memorial Day, we pause with the rest of America to honor that debt that we can’t fully repay.

This Memorial Day, join the rest of the firearm and ammunition industry to pause, reflect, and remember these giants. These young Americans, from all walks of life and all corners of our country, are more than deserving of a day of reflection. Their sacrifice purchased our freedom. Their blood bought our tomorrows, and their memories cast the shadows in which we find respite.

They were giants and for a brief time, I was honored to walk among them.

About the Author

Mark Oliva is NSSF’s Managing Director of Public Affairs, The Firearm Industry Trade Association. He is a retired Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant with 25 years of service, including tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Albania, and Zaire.

About The National Shooting Sports Foundation

NSSF is the trade association for the firearm industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of thousands of manufacturers, distributors, firearm retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations, and publishers nationwide. For more information, visit

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