Today is the day we all celebrate our independence as a nation. This is a day that is uniquely special to the United States, yet sadly has become more commercialized in the last several years. One day in the future it may become "Happy Fireworks Day" once some organization protests that they are offended by our Declaration or some such nonsense. It seems unlikely now but look at all the other "Holidays" that have changed over time. One never knows.... Today though it is still Independence Day, and it's a day I'm proud to get to see. Sadly, it also marks the two year date of the day I found out my friend CW3 Flanigan was killed in Afghanistan fighting for the freedoms we hold so dear, yet take for granted.
Over the last several weeks I've had an excellent opportunity to witness just how much freedom we have. I've received e-mails from people who think otherwise, and even talked to one (conspiracy theorist) but I myself remain confident in our freedom. People point out that we are restricted from owning automatic weapons, and scream that our freedoms are gone. The truth is though, we are free to own them provided we follow the rules to GET them. Not all countries have this, and I personally agree that there needs to be a checks system in place for such stuff anyhow. The Supreme Court, in a rare moment of enlightenment, even upheld everyone's right to own a handgun, provided you meet the requirements which essentially mean you aren't a felon. Seems pretty free to me! If you want to go buy a few hundred gallons of diesel fuel and fertilizer, you can! Don't be surprised if someone questions WHY you just bought the ingredients for a bomb, but if you don't have ill intent, their yours for the taking.
In a few more months we'll all head to the voting booths to make our selections for the future leaders of this country. In that little booth you'll have several choices to make about this future. Some people might argue that candidate A is just like candidate B, and there may even be some truth to that, but in the end there is still an A and a B. Some countries don't have that. Look at Zimbabwe which recently held their "election". It was a really easy process, you vote for the only name on the ticket, Robert Mugabe, and you go home. I can promise you this, Robert Mugabe of last week will be just like Robert Mugabe of next week, which is a lot more similar than McCain and Obama. What you won't have there is someone with a gun assisting making sure you have no trouble choosing the "right" candidate. More freedom in my book.
Perhaps some of you are heading out across country today to celebrate with relatives. As you cross easily from state to state, think about the places where you can't do that. There are no guards asking why you feel like heading over to Georgia for your afternoon. Not every country can say that. While you tool down the highway on your trip, you have no worries of being pulled over merely because you aren't from the local "tribe" which runs the show there. No officer will be holding out his hand expecting your license and a hundred dollar bill to avoid a little "talking to" courtesy of a nightstick. Still sounding pretty good to me...
Some of you might be enjoying your summer, anxiously awaiting the start of school where you hope to go on to be a doctor, a lawyer, a politician, or maybe a humanitarian worker. All options are open and your performance will be your key to these dreams. What you won't encounter is some bureaucracy that tells you that you can't chase these dreams because you didn't score well enough in school, or you are from the wrong caste, or you just aren't the right race or gender. I myself came from a background where I nearly failed out of high school and came from a poor family yet here I am, a student in medical school. These are all freedoms which we enjoy that people in other countries don't
One of the things to remember is that this independence didn't come for naught. The price paid was heavy, and even today the debt is still being settled. Tonight while you enjoy your steak and beer, remember that somewhere in the world, an American is suffering so that you won't have to. This is a person who did this of their own accord, be it for school, a sense of patriotism, or just a way out. No letter arrived in the mail directing them to report for duty. No truck full of armed men came and whisked them away to a new life of danger. This citizen willfully stepped forward and said "I will go" when so many others sat back and criticized or listed the reasons why it just wasn't convenient for them to go. Tonight while you watch the beautiful displays of fireworks bursting overhead, know that somewhere else in the world an American is seeing the same bursts, hearing the same booms, and wishing they weren't there. This person will see no beauty in the rockets red glare, only danger unknown to those who've not been there. When the embers fall on you as you try to dance out of the way, remember that for a neighbor of yours these embers are shrapnel, embers that injure far more gravely. Lastly, remember that in the morning when you awaken, head pounding from the nights festivities, a friend you've never met will never reawaken from their last nights journey.
I myself will be in the Pensacola area provided all goes well. I'll likely be sleeping at a truck stop as all the campgrounds are booked and I lacked the ability to reserve one far enough in advance. I'll enjoy my night in the Bean because tonight of all nights, hotels apparently don't offer a military discount because of the opportunity to make more money. Thankfully though, regardless of where I enjoy my night, tomorrow I will awaken though just two years ago I came so close to not, and so many of my brothers in arms never will.
Remember, freedom is not free. As soon as I get better internet access, I'll repost one of my favorite pictures because I feel it says it all.