Guest Post by Isabel Brown
There are often unique moments placed in our paths which remind us of the true price of freedom. A few years ago, I was flown to a female student leadership conference based in Washington, D.C. to represent my collegiate student government. As I was flying into our nation’s capital on Memorial Day, I was seated next to a middle aged woman who had boarded the plane without any baggage, instead holding a simple bouquet of flowers.
The woman struck up a conversation with me, asking what my plans would be for the week, and in return informed me that she would only be staying in our nation’s capital for a few hours--she would be delivering the bouquet of flowers to her late 18-year-old son’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery before flying home.
I was stunned. I could hear through the gravity in her tone that this remarkable, kind woman, and her son, had paid the ultimate price for our nation’s freedom--freedom that gave me the opportunity to attend such a leadership conference in the first place.
The truth is, American women in and out of uniform pay this price on a daily basis. They understand that women’s chances of higher education, the building of her career, independent travel, free speech, and freedom of worship are not small privileges courtesy of our geography in the United States--they are luxuries paid by bold Americans willing to risk their lives for the sake of the empowerment of us all.
Today, the United States military is comprised of an all-volunteer force--enlisted, brave men and women dedicated to preserving the freedom Americans take for granted each day. Less than 0.5% of the American population answers the call to serve by enlisting in the armed forces, and women have increasingly answered this call since the end of the draft in 1973. At the time, just 2% of our military was comprised of enlisted female warriors, while today, this figure has risen to 16%. Through wearing the uniform and supporting those who serve, American women have progressively bore the burden of preserving American values, understanding that freedom is never free.
I have long been fascinated by this concept. It is difficult to dwell on the price of freedom, particularly if you have never risked the payment yourself. On the contrary, taking our nation’s freedom for granted is far too easy. Daily routines, work & school schedules, and long to-do lists often pull our focus away from gratitude--gratitude for our ability of self-expression, unique opportunities, and capacity to work our dreams into reality which is only possible through the preservation of American freedom. I often fall victim to these daily distractions and fail to direct my gaze to the brave men and women risking everything, just for me.
The next time you make a big career move, celebrate a graduation, or freely speak your mind as an empowered, American woman, pause for just a moment. Countless women (and men) have fought to the very end for your opportunities here in the freest nation on earth, and it is imperative that we never forget those who paid the price of the American Dream.