Editor's Note: Sarah Thompson's essay won second place in the Fort Dodge Noon Sertoma club's 2009 contest.
Ask anyone you meet about freedom, and you are sure to get a wide variety of answers. It seems each one of us has a different opinion. What freedom means to me, simply put, is life itself. Without freedom, some of us would never have been born. In some countries, the government tells you how many children you can and cannot have.
Here in the United State, we are free to get an education to whatever level we choose. That is not possible everywhere in the world. Some children are forced to quit school and go to work, often for long hours and very little money.
When I grow up, I can reach the highest level of our government. I could become the President of the United States. In other countries, a dictator or king, or even the government can tell you what you will be doing for a living.
When we go to church on Sundays, we never give our freedom of religion a thought. But in other places all around the world, people are being killed because they want to worship God.
Our country has had to fight to defend our freedom many times throughout history. In wars both here and on foreign lands, freedom has been at risk. I wonder what freedom meant to the men and women who have fought and died for our country. They sacrificed themselves so we could stand here, free, today. Just in numbers alone, it is hard to believe that in World War II there were 405,399 deaths. That is more than twice the population of the city of Des Moines. Today I think freedom can be taken for granted, but I don't think past generations had that luxury.
John F.Kennedy said, "My fellow Americans ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country." To me that means each one of us plays a part in keeping us free. When you do volunteer work at a hospital or retirement home, when you give blood or work in your community, or when you join a service organization such as the Noon Sertomas, you are giving back to a country that is free.
So when you ask someone you meet about freedom, it is good there are so many answers. I know without freedom our lives simply could not exist as they are today.