By Mike Andriacco
Both of my grandfathers and my uncle were veterans.
And until the day he died, my dad’s father had a yellow ribbon magnet of the back of his car that read “Freedom isn’t Free.”
After he passed away and I bought the car from my father and uncle, I kept the magnet there, firmly believing in the message. I’m not so sure I do anymore.
A few months ago I was participating in a professional forum with some peers when I came to a realization: for the vast majority of people who enjoy its benefits, freedom IS free; it’s supported by donations and, in return, the primary donors earn the title “Veteran.”
The more I thought about this idea, the more I began to realize it just felt right and I became more excited about putting it into words.
Our nation’s veterans have donated their time, many for 20 years or more, their sweat, their skills, some of their rights, and, for those who made the ultimate sacrifice, their futures.
But the donations aren’t limited to those who wear the uniform. Their families make donations too. Children donate their first steps, their first home run or dance recital, high school graduation, even their births so their parents may serve the ideals of something greater than themselves. Husbands and wives donate restful nights, a two-parent household, the ability to call their loved one just to say hello. Parents donate their ability to keep their child safe when he or she gets on a plane bound for a war zone.
The list of donations is endless and, just like other worthy causes, every little bit helps.
For the majority of Americans, freedom is free for one reason: someone else made the donation, freely and willingly. The veterans’ cemeteries are full of donors who have earned my gratitude for their part in securing the freedom my family and I enjoy. A donation is something freely given with nothing asked in return. That’s what makes the donations of our nation’s veterans so special.
And there is something we can do in return to thank them, though they haven’t asked. We can exercise that freedom. Without that, the sacrifices of our veterans are meaningless.
I am proud to see people using their freedoms – freedom of speech, their right to assemble, and their freedom to elect their leaders. It doesn’t matter who they vote for, if they gather in support of a cause I believe in (or not), or say something I don’t agree with. It’s enough to know they value the donation of others enough to avoid letting it go to waste.
I reflect on the many donations my grandfathers and uncle made, and I’m going to be grateful. I’m going to think about the donation I first made 15 years ago to support my family’s freedoms.
And I’m going to seek out a young Airman at the start of his career and make sure I thank him for his donation, because he’s going to make sure that some day, when my children face the decision to donate or not, they have the freedom to choose.
This week’s contributor to our Guest Blogger Series is Mike, who is also from Cincinnati, and his wife Amanda are both active duty members of the U.S. Air Force. He is currently deployed to Southwest Asia. They are expecting their first child shortly after his return and he’s thankful to his wife for “donating” her morning sickness so he can be away from home for most of the pregnancy. This essay he wrote also appeared on the U.S. Air Forces Central Command‘s website.