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Why I Serve: Freedom Citation Essay

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Freedom is not just a word, it is also a concept. Freedom doesn't have a definition to me, it has a feeling. Putting into words the feeling of freedom is as daunting a task as counting the drops of water in the ocean. By this, I simply mean I cannot explain everything that freedom is. Freedom is everything from being able to choose what I have for dinner to being able to volunteer to serve in the world's greatest air power. I can, however, explain the moment that I experienced what it meant to be fighting for freedom.

I had the honor to deploy to Kirkuk, Iraq from December 2008 to July 2009. While there, I worked in the office that monitors the deployments and redeployments, but another aspect of my job was to set up "Hero Flights" for fallen service members. That was a job that cannot be prepared for in training. I knew the instructions, I understood the job and the duties that came with it, but I was never prepared for how I would feel when I performed that duty.

Less than a month after I got there my nightmares became a reality and four American soldiers gave their lives fighting for our freedom. The moment the paperwork I needed to set up the flights came into my hands I knew why I was there and what I was fighting for. I understood that these brave Americans gave their lives to protect me. Seeing that first hand made me realize that freedom does not come easy and it does not come cheap. It is a concept that I and every other person who has ever put on a uniform has said, that I will fight for it and if it comes down to it, I will give my life for it.

I was like many other young Airmen that knew people were dying in the war but was somewhat desensitized to it. I thought that my freedoms were automatic and that nothing could take them away, but I now know that nothing could be further from the truth. Our freedoms are not automatic. There were service members before me that fought for the freedoms I currently have and years down the road we will be the service members that fought to uphold the freedoms that will still be held so near and dear. Freedom to me is being able to make my country proud, protecting the country that I am proud of.