Freedom Fest: Rights and Responsibilities
Honoring sacrifice goes beyond pomp and circumstance
During this time of year, the Emporia Main Street staff has significant contact with veterans and active duty military. Active duty personnel are critical in the planning and execution of Freedom Fest, and our veterans (and their families) often stop by the office to relay stories of their time in military service. We should do a lot to honor those people that risked their lives to rid the world of tyranny, but if we only focus on the “active duty” portion of a veterans life, or if we only concentrate on our active duty personnel when they are actively serving, we are missing a much larger point. The rights and lifestyle we enjoy as a nation are built on the sacrifices of our citizens.
The military members of our nation are an extreme example of citizen sacrifice. Some were deployed for months on end far away from their family members. Others experienced mental or physical trauma through their service. Some never came home. One of the most amazing things about our service members is that they often didn’t stop serving once they returned to the community, but their service changed to fit the needs of their home region. They didn’t say “enough is enough”, or “what’s in it for me?”, but instead looked for new ways that they could make a difference in a new role.
It’s easy to stand in awe of someone who sacrificed in some foreign theater, only to come home and volunteer to improve the community. But, we shouldn’t simply honor those that fought for our freedoms with events. We should honor sacrifice with sacrifice. This is one time of year where we often hear “freedom isn’t free”, but we pass that bill onto our military personnel as opposed to paying our fair share. Our fair share is tied to the sacrifices we make to better our communities, our state, and our nation as we seek to leave things to future generations better than we found them. In other words, we don’t honor people with what we say, we honor them with what we do. If our rights are guaranteed through sacrifice, then the sacrifice belongs to us all.
As the Veterans Week activity approaches, there are several ways that you can honor our veterans and activity duty personnel. You can participate in Freedom Fest, donate items to the Emporia Main Street Soldier Care Packages, support our local VFW as they try to improve their financial situation to serve future generations, or you could support Monday’s parade activities. As a citizen, you can honor our veterans and active duty personnel every day by volunteering and making sacrifices for the good of your local citizens and the future of our nation.
Freedom was never free. Each right we enjoy is balanced by a responsibility we incur. When we shirk our responsibilities, our rights wither. When we fail to grasp the gravity of our rights, we devalue the responsibilities we all have in creating a community worthy of the sacrifices others have made. During this Veterans Day (or Veterans Week in the founding home of Veterans Day) we should absolutely honor those that honorably served our nation’s military. We should spend the rest of the year emulating their commitment to sacrifice for the greater good by making our community a better place. Just like the World War I Veteran made sacrifices for today’s generations without meeting many of today’s youth, we have a responsibility to leave the world a better place for those that follow.
So, the questions all of us should be asking ourselves as we honor our veterans during our local Veterans Day week are these: How can each of us as individuals come together to honor the sacrifices of our heroes through our work? How can we collectively ensure the prosperity and well being of those that come after us? As we look back at the youth of previous generations that sacrificed so much, and then continued to give their time, talent, and treasure to build better communities when they returned from active service, we can emulate their example by giving towards a brighter future right here at home.