Second Place Winner,
Veteran's Day Essay Contest,
November, 2000

What Freedom Means to Me
by Matthew Blomerth
Lockhart High School

        One of our nation's greatest patriots, Thomas Jefferson, once stated, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots."  Mr. Jefferson's great quotation has proven itself true time and time again over our nation's often turbulent, but always persevering history. Veterans Day stands as a solemn and proud memorial to the lives of the brave Americans who willingly put their lives on the line as a sacrifice on the altar of freedom and democracy--men and women who were not afraid to sacrifice themselves for the ideals and principles of our great country.
        To me, Veterans Day embodies the spirits of our nation's fighting soldiers. Those brave men--from the Doughboys, who valiantly charged headlong into machine gun fire in the Ardennes, "To make the world safe for democracy" in the Great War to the patriots, who courageously stormed the beaches of Normandy during World War IL as well as all of the millions of heroes of our nation-command the utmost respect in my heart. The knowledge that, those soldiers fought and bled for my personal freedom causes my heart to jump and my eyes to water whenever I hear the National Anthem played or see the Stars and Stripes fluttering peacefully in the breeze. Even though not a single soldier knew me, I still know that their sacrifices were made for me personally.
        As each November I I approaches, I am reminded of the liberties and possibilities which lie open to me because of the efforts of America's heroes. Without the superhuman courage and determination of our nation's soldiers, the free country which we lovingly call America would have long since ceased to exist. Here in the Land of the Free, I know that I can make the most of my abilities in life and that no class system or favoritism will squash my hopes and dreams. Also, I realize that I may speak my opinion on all political issues, if I so choose, without worry of arrest or detainment because of my views. I also understand that all of these liberties exist only because our veterans have fought for them. Their lives are the proof that America is truly the pillar of strength among free nations of the world and that freedom is definitely a right worth dying for.
        The coming of Veterans Day is an annual reminder of my personal duties to my nation should any foreign or domestic foe threaten her. The veterans of old had the moral and personal courage to throw themselves into harm's way in order to protect and serve their country even though they knew very well that death might be their only reward. The knowledge that so many of my forefathers were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice buoys my courage, and I know that should America   need me to serve and fight against an enemy, I would do so for her. Even though it would be a terrifying experience, I could not let down the millions of men who have served and died before me, and I could not allow the sacred values for which they fought to be underminded by any opressor. My only hope is that I might live up to the high expectations set before me by those brave Americans who have been given the proud title of Veterans.
        Veterans Day is a proud and solemn holiday, and it serves as a timeless reminder to every generation of Americans as to the cost of liberty and justice. The Tree of Liberty of which Thomas Jefferson so eloquently spoke can only be sustained by the recurring sacrifices of American men and women. Should we, as a nation, every forget the cost of freedom, and should we ever begin to take our Great Nation for granted, we will be in danger of 16-sing all of the rights for which our heroic ancestors fought and bled. America is a beautiful and progressive land-'----the great bastion of strength against all that is unjust in the world. It will forever be the job of the American patriot-from the minuteman to the tank commander-fo protect this unique and truly sacred country. I am proud to call myself an American and doubly proud to say that the veterans who fought so valiantly for America did so for every American-living, dead, and those not yet bom--and I hope I am able to live up to the great expectations and possibilities in life that their sacrifices have made possible.

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