When I think of America, I automatically think of freedom: of speech, of religion, of press, etc. We live in the land of opportunity where “rags to riches” stories are common. We have the power to choose our fate. We can watch, listen, or do what we want, when we want. However, what most Americans tend to forget is that freedom is not free; we have unsung heroes working for that freedom. From George Washington to Theodore Roosevelt to General MacArthur to my brother (pictured below on the right), these heroes are better known as the American soldier.
Some families place a flag outside their homes around the Fourth of July, Veteran’s Day, or 9/11 but my family has one hanging outside all year round. We remember and respect our heroes every day. Last June, our family lost a good friend in the line of duty. He and my brother graduated high school, West Point, and ranger school together. He even went on to become a Green Beret. When it came time for the funeral, his friends and comrades stayed in our home. In those three days I learned more about the price of freedom than any class could have ever taught me. To hear their stories and to see both the physical and mental impairments from the war was heartbreaking to say the least. What shocked me the most was that not one of them was bitter about their experience, situation, or condition. I saw that these people truly love America, a rare expression in our generation.
Ask an American to define America, and the answer will most likely point out a negative aspect. Frequently, people complain about the political system, that Wi-Fi is not working up to speed, or that they have to pay taxes. What they seem to not realize is that all of those things are privileges. The fact that we can voice our opinions about a political figure without fearing persecution is due to the fact that America has a great, though flawed, democracy. We are free to search the Internet, watch movies, read books, and communicate with people across the seas because Americans have inalienable rights. Taxes provide children with access to education, they keep our streets clean and our roads safe, and they pay for our police, firefighters, and other emergency services. My point is that Americans focus on the negatives, not because America is bad, but because our society strives for perfection. We are quick to point out what is wrong and how we think it should be fixed, rather than appreciate all that we already have.
I believe an important, but often overlooked, part of being American is appreciating those who have fought for all of the privileges we have. Because my brother served, I have first-hand knowledge of the repercussions of war on the human; repercussions that tend to be invisible to the unaffected. This invisibility stems from the strong sense of pride that radiates from the American solider. At the end of the day, I am proud to be an American. America is my home and I do not take for granted the lives lost in the pursuit of protecting my freedom.