Freedom has never been something which should be taken for granted. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness -- in current times in the United States, these three rights have been generally taken for granted. Often, these rights have not been taken advantage of. As often as our freedom has been underappreciated, it has often been overappreciated, and many have believed that having freedom means dispensation of responsibility. I have believed that freedom should be utilized properly, and with our freedom should come responsibility.

There are many different types of freedom which have been enjoyed in the United States. We have had a free market economy, which has kept our nation thriving, while those who oppressed under the socialist economies of Lenin and later communist leaders starved to death by the millions. Incidentally, the American Relief Association, led by Herbert Hoover, was stated in a letter by the Soviet government to have saved over twenty million Soviet citizens' lives from famine; this shows that the United States had economic freedom which allowed it to not only feed itself, but other nations as well.

Another freedom we have include the freedom of worship which was outlined in the First Amendment. The freedom of worship has generally been taken for granted in the United States; however, in communist nations, this freedom was stripped or severely weakened. Those who did not agree with anti-religious laws were persecuted under the Soviet Union, and many to this day have still been persecuted under communist China. More Christians have been martyred in this century than in the previous 19 combined. Even with the fall of the Soviet Union, an estimated 160,000 Christians have been martyred throughout the world in the past year alone.

Closely tied to the freedom to worship has been the freedom of speech. Many negative acts have been defended as "freedom of expression"; nevertheless, the freedom of expression has remained one of the most valued liberties enjoyed in the United States. In many other nations, the freedom of speech has been shunned. In the United States, it has been cherished. On the other hand, however, it has been abused. In taking liberty over how people express themselves, they have often neglected the crucial balance of freedom with responsibility. Many indecent acts have been defended as "free speech"; in most cases, the best solution to this dilemma is to practice personal responsibility.

These freedoms which we Americans have enjoyed have not come cheaply. Most of the freedom which has been enjoyed today was not brought about peacefully. The freedom savored by this nation was not simply handed over by those who threatened it. In a fantasy world, we could have obtained freedom without massive suffering; however, we have always lived in a world of reality, a world which has been the playground of ruthless dictators such as Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. For Nazis and Stalinists, destroying American standards of freedom was at the top of the agenda.

When such leaders have taken dominion over nations, the United States has been forced to make immeasurable sacrifices to protect itself. In the Revolutionary War, multitudes of soldiers gave their lives to gain independence. In the Civil War, hundreds of thousands of soldiers died to preserve the Union, and to give emancipation to the enslaved. In World War II, millions of soldiers died to free the rest of the world from the grasp of the planned Third Reich. In Korea, thousands of soldiers gave their lives in a fight to preserve freedom from communist invaders. In Vietnam, thousands of soldiers gave their lives in an attempt to prevent communists from gaining power. In all of these wars, those who did not die had their lives changed forever.

These immeasurable sacrifices have often been underappreciated by Americans who have not experienced the horrors of battle. There must have been no greater hypocrisy than to receive criticism from the people whose freedom you risked death for, which happened after the Vietnam War. Many of those Americans like to associate themselves with the winning sides of wars, giving credit to themselves for winning a war they did not take part in. Many Americans who have not fought in a war have credited themselves by saying, "We won World War II," and other such things in which the word "we" is used. In actuality, "we" had nothing to do with it, and made no sacrifices. It was the soldiers who put their lives at stake who won all of those battles, not those of us who have seen war only in motion picture.

Many great sacrifices have been made to preserve the freedom which is enjoyed in America. Freedom was never handed over to the United States on a silver platter. I believe that freedom should not be abused, and neither should it be unused. Freedom should be practiced with responsibility, and should never be taken for granted. To do so would be a great act of disrespect towards those who have made such immense sacrifices to keep freedom in America.