“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” ― Nelson Mandela
This is Memorial Day weekend in the US. If you were following this Blog last year, my message today may sound familiar. We take this special time to honor the military service of those who fought and died in prior wars and conflicts in defense of our country. We also honor the service of the members of our armed forces who served and survived and especially those who have returned home with physical and psychological injuries. Finally, those in uniform today continuing to protect our freedoms deserve the best we have in leadership, the tools needed to protect us, and the healthcare they have earned serving on our behalf.
It continues to be my preference to look upon this holiday as a time of remembering…”Remembrance Day”. We are called on not only to remember those who fought for our freedom, but remember what those freedoms are.
I am constantly reminded of several of the personal freedoms I enjoy. Writing a Post each week is one that has become very important to me. Some countries where my Blog is read have very tight government controls on the freedom of their people…such as China and Korea. There are so many other daily activities we participate in that only “freedom” would allow.
While visiting my local bank the other day for example, I was reminded of an experience I had in Costa Rica. As “free” and as beautiful as Costa Rica is, freedom there may not always look the same as “freedom” here in the US, especially in the course of daily life.
In Costa Rica a few years ago, I learned that I could not enter directly into the main lobby of a bank. During busy banking hours, I had to stand in a long line on the public sidewalk to wait my turn to enter the bank. When it was my turn, I was only allowed to enter the outer section of the bank which was a small room that prevented me from entering the main lobby. For security reasons, the door I entered from the sidewalk was also locked behind me (as I recall) to keep those still waiting on the sidewalk outside of the bank until it was their turn. Only a set number of banking customers were allowed in the main lobby at the same time and apparently the number matched the number of bank teller counters available. When a bank teller became free, the inner door was unlocked and I could then enter the main lobby and was directed to the available bank teller. Giving me these directions were armed guards stationed inside the lobby. Also, I was directed to remove my sunglasses and my baseball cap which allowed the security guards and the security cameras to get a near perfect photo of me while in the bank lobby.
Oh, I should not forget to mention that the security guards posted inside the bank held drawn automatic weapons and appeared more like military guards than Moon Security personnel. These security guards were on full alert and had very little interest in small talk and provided no other forms of courtesy towards bank customers. I only point this difference out to show how “freedom” can feel very different in different places. And, what we have in the US on a day-to-day basis should be appreciated.
My local bank’s security guard is not wearing military dress and the weapon is holstered if in fact there is a weapon. I am not sure since it could be a stun gun or pellet pistol. Regardless, I do not feel intimidated. Instead, I am greeted and there are times when the security guard opens the door me and other customers. Once inside, I am free to stand in line to wait on an available bank teller or even sit down in one of several comfortable chairs provided. I am not asked to remove my sunglasses or cap for a convenient mug shot. As I leave, it is likely the security guard will open the door again and tell me to have a good day.
Costa Rica as I mentioned is a “free” country and the people are great. And, there are a few benefits many Americans living there enjoy. However, it would be a gross mistake to assume all “freedom” is the same among free countries.
Please thank a family member, a friend, or a stranger today who has served to provide us an exceptional form of freedom to enjoy. And remember those who are not around who did their share to protect our way of life. And, certainly all is not 100% right with the USA regarding our freedoms. It appears it will always be a work in progress. Whether in uniform or not, we all have a responsibility to “provide”, “protect”, and “preserve” the freedoms that have been paid for by many.
Let us not lose sight of the fact that every American of every color, race, and gender has been represented in our fight for freedom. On Memorial Day, it is not the color of me or you…”it is the color red, white, and blue”.
As is my annual tradition, I salute those friends of mine who served and died wearing our country’s uniform during the Viet Nam Conflict. They are Danny Watkins from Meadowview, Virginia; Michael Charles and Kenneth Delaney both from Bristol, Virginia; and Frank Campbell from Chilhowie, Virginia. I continue to honor each of them by name as my way of publicly remembering their service and sacrifice while serving our country. This is my Remembrance Day!
God Bless America!