The greatest gift I can ever give you is knowledge, and the greatest gift given to all of us as Americans, is freedom.
Freedom means many different things to many different people, and while I won’t even try to define exactly what freedom means, I will tell you what freedom means to me.
As I write this, we are currently celebrating Veterans Day on 11/11/11. The unique date has everyone buzzing with excitement, but for me it means very little aside from being neat. If anything, the very fact that we as a society can get giddy over a bunch of 1’s, underscores the type of freedom we enjoy on a daily basis.
What would these numbers mean if you weren’t even allowed to express your opinion openly? What would these numbers mean if you didn’t even know whether or not you would live to see the sunset that evening?
Those are thoughts I don’t have that often, and that’s a good thing.
I can tell you it’s easy to take freedom for granted because I do it on a daily basis. Maybe that is the greatest compliment I can give to our men and women in uniform – that they do their job so well I oftentimes forget what it actually takes to allow for our freedom. They sacrifice their lives so I can write a blog post, pet my dog, and talk to my friends about unique dates on the calendar.
It’s a daunting fact to wrap your head around, but it’s true. As my sons, I need you to understand this because I never want the sacrifices that have been made in freedom’s name to ever go to waste. There is a great quote by Ronald Reagan, that unfortunately I never heard until today, but it sums up what I am trying to say perfectly:
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
Please remember this quote and pass it on to your children. Please remember that freedom is a gift that must be protected and fought for, because without freedom, we don’t have the lives we enjoy each and every day.
Just the other day, after we raked leaves into a large pile and jumped into them time and time again until we were exhausted and laid back with big smiles on our faces staring up at the sky, you know what I saw? Clouds.
Just the other day, when we were playing soccer in the backyard and the roofers working on our neighbor’s house started working for the day, you know what I heard? Nail guns.
Just the other day, when we were staying at a hotel after losing our power and we met that nice lady in the elevator and had a conversation with her, you know who she was? A stranger.
Imagine a life in which every time you looked up to the sky, you were looking for a war plane. Imagine a life in which every time you heard a noise, you ducked. Imagine a life in which every person you met, was a potential threat.
We don’t live that type of life and that is what freedom means to me.
If we so choose, freedom means we get to live in a world full of innocence, the pursuit of happiness, and indulgence of curiosity. It means I get to spend my days figuring out how to be the best dad and husband I can be without worrying about oppression, violence, or simply just trying to stay alive.
That is why it is my wish that whenever you get the chance, be sure to thank a serviceman or woman for the sacrifices they make every day. Be sure to think about what it really means when we get to decide whether we want to make pancakes or eggs for Saturday morning breakfast. Please try to never take these things for granted, and if you do, recognize that you are taking them for granted.
From the bottom of my heart I would like to say thank you to all of the men, women, and families who have served, are serving, and will serve our great country who provide me with a life of freedom and happiness spent with my family.
‘Brad the Dad’ is a parent columnist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter: @readbradthedad
This article originally appeared on Chelmsford Patch on 11/12/11.