Every year, people celebrate Veterans Day. In middle school, we had an assembly, listened to speakers, and wrote about or to veterans that we knew. In high school, they let us have a day off in honor of the holiday.
When I first heard that we were getting a day off, I was just happy about the fact that I was going to have some time to get my homework done before the Marching Band field trip over the weekend. I didn’t really think about what the day meant, and what we were supposed to recognize with it.
Every day, countless men and women risk their lives to keep us safe and our country free. Soldiers stay overseas, missing birthdays and graduations and simple get-togethers. I think we sometimes forget how much these soldiers are giving up to keep us safe. We take our liberty for granted, and we don’t always appreciate what it means to be an American.
Sometimes, I think we focus too much on what isn’t perfect about our country. We have a pretty hefty national debt, we consume way too much oil, we’re constantly on opposing sides when it comes to politics, etc. We look at all of the things that we’d like to fix about our country, and we don’t stop to wonder why we have the ability to fix those things at all.
There are plenty of countries who don’t give their citizens the right to change things that they don’t like. Countries with dictators or totalitarian leaders who don’t allow their people to make decisions about what they want. Places where people don’t have the freedom of speech, or the freedom of the press, or the freedom of religion. Places where people can’t change what they don’t like.
But here, we can. We can vote on what we think needs to be fixed. We vote on who should make those kinds of decisions, and if they aren’t doing as well as we’d like them to, they’re out of office anyway after their term. Here we can protest about the problems that we feel aren’t getting enough attention, and we can practice whatever religion we want. We have freedoms that many other countries don’t have. And those freedoms don’t come without a price.
On the Korean War Veterans Memorial, there is a simple message inlaid in clear silver letters: Freedom Is Not Free. It never has been. We’ve always had to fight for freedom, be it ours or another country’s. Many of the wars that we engage in is because we are protecting and fighting for the freedom of another group.
That is what America stands for. Not cheeseburgers or guns or baseball. America has and always will stand for freedom. And we are only able to stand for freedom because of the countless courageous men and women that risk and give their lives to protect us. Freedom has never been, and unfortunately never will be, free, but I feel safer knowing that there are people who will defend that freedom. See you next week!
“Reprinted from Hagel Publications, Inc. dba as Courier Newspapers”