They stepped upon the rickety decks of ships that would either deliver them to a watery grave or the safe haven they so desperately longed for. Their request was simple; yet in it’s simplicity lay the tragic demise of their very existence. If there was a God, surely he would deliver them, to a place where they could speak to him, worship him, and council with him in a way that was unregulated, personal, and above all free from any politically driven scrutiny. Deliverance was granted. As they reached the frigid waters of the Cape in 1620 the pilgrims brought with them the courage, perseverance, and reverence designated by one term that would define the greatest of all nations on earth- FREEDOM.
We often speak of freedom with a sense of verified respect. Our history is rich with memorialized sacrifice in successful attempts to uphold the statute and ideology of freedom. It was the driving force behind the David of all nations, the very rock that slew the Goliath of World power in 1783. Freedom was the cause that sparked a family feud that so brutally bruised the heel of our new nation after the Civil War. It pushed mere boys to leave behind the luxuries of home, and take refuge in sub-temperature foxholes during WWI. It coerced men with families, and women with dreams to stand toe to toe with masters of genocide, dictatorships of hate, and evil empires in WWII. It was quietly fought for yet valiantly sacrificed for in Korea. It was carried on the backs of unknown warriors that never returned home in Vietnam. It was protected in Bosnia, Somalia, Haiti, Kosovo, and the Gulf War. We sent our sons and daughters to defend it in Iraq. We watch our children’s fathers and mothers guard it against foes in Afghanistan today. Freedom is OUR cause.
As Americans we are forever grateful to those who so valiantly and honorably fought and continue to fight to uphold our natural freedoms. We live in a land where we are permitted to worship God in a way that we individually choose. Men can be masters of their own crafts, subjects to their own selves, and welders of their own tomorrows. Here at home women can pursue powerful dreams, be voices of change, and matriarchs of self-mastery. We reap the rewards of that sustained ideology of freedom daily, yet what we fail to recognize is that freedom is entwined with individual agency.
It was the airman that so courageously flew into enemy territory to give aid and sacrificed his life so that a journalist could distort public opinion concerning his brothers and sisters in arms. It was the Marine that threw himself on a live grenade that enabled the protestors to freely yell profanities and protest the burial of his fallen comrades. It was the sailor that left her children never to return that enabled someone else’s children to demonstrate on her alma mater’s campus. It was the Coast Guardsman that fearlessly drove the u-boat while staring down the barrel of the enemy that allowed protestors to burn the flag that flew from his stern. It was the solider whose coffin is draped with flag that enables the musician to carelessly tread over it.
Aside from their own conviction and beliefs brave men and women have long sacrificed their health, their own freedoms, and their literal existence to ensure that Americans are free to act for themselves, and pursue happiness. The Christian solider gives his life so that the atheist can freely live hers. Teams of men and women kick down doors with no knowledge of what awaits inside so that NFL players can kick field goals, Daniel Tosh can offend every race, profession, and living mammal on this planet, and so that people like Bruce Jenner won’t be hung from the public square for becoming Caitlyn.
Our history is colorful with examples of heroism determined to uphold freedom and to defend our individual convictions. Even more noteworthy is the fact that today these brave souls willingly volunteer to protect lifestyles, principles, and faiths that do not align and even contradict their own. In our efforts to honor a nation that was birthed with the very foundation of individual freedom at its core, let us not forget the selfless acts that so honorably and humbly ensure our liberties. Let us be a people that – though we disagree from time to time-still recognizes that freedom is not merely inherited, but rather, sacrificed and fought for. Let us treat that sacrifice with reverence and respect for our fellow men. Let us be a people worth fighting for, worth protecting, and above all worth dying for. Truly this land, our home, is the safe haven that has provided refuge from a world full of chaos and torment. This land, our free land, we enjoy because of the noble, the strong, and the brave.