Excerpt from Freedom

"Freedom's Challenge"

The all-too-familiar command was voiced over the loudspeaker: “Please stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.” We, my classmates and I, began to stand like we had been trained to do since our earliest years in school. For some reason that, to this day, I do not understand, I took notice of the way my fellow students struggled to maneuver themselves out of their desks. The number of signs and crude whispers that flowed into my ears startled me. However, the profanity, joking, and eating I both heard and saw angered me. In the midst of my anger, I came to the realization that we, the American citizens, particularly the youth, are the most threatening to the freedom and hope that the American flag represents.

I sat down after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance confused and agitated. Not only have people tried to remove “under God” from our Pledge, but now they were insulting what it stood for and those who created and defended it. How could they be so disrespecting and unappreciative of that red, white, and blue fabric that symbolized the dream of our forefathers and the freedom that soldiers have fought for throughout the years? My thoughts swam through the many war movies I had seen and how all of the people I know who served in the military equated the movies to fairytales compared to what the front line was actually like. I cringed at the thought of how my fellow students were, in essence, poking fun at the efforts and sacrifices all our veterans and current soldiers. They loved their country enough to protect it at any cost, but these teenagers did not even have enough respect to place their hands over their hearts and recite a few words, solemn words that have echoed through the decades with an air of honor and power, dignity, and truth. The youth in America were disgracing and destroying America and its promise of freedom with their ignorance and non-existent recognition of how great the country they reside in truly is.

My teacher’s monotone speech about the importance of the Nile River in Egypt had been slowly working on breaking my thought pattern. I took part in the discussion for a moment, but soon my thoughts wandered and, yet again, I was focused on America and its youth. The youth had become increasingly rebellious. They had begun to manipulate and take advantage of the freedoms they had been given. Children and young adults were not just testing the boundaries but crossing them quite frequently. There is no reason for youth to be so rebellious; they should be grateful for the freedoms they possess that so many citizens in foreign countries desire. Their stupidity and rebelliousness is going to damage the freedoms that this great county was founded on.

My great-grandfather’s stout and muscular image arose in my mind like a bright, undeniable light. He had been in World War II and saw the flag raised on Iwo Jima. He spoke of the war maybe once or twice that I can remember. The gleam my great-grandfather had gotten in his eyes when he spoke of the war projected pride and love that was breathtaking. He had sacrificed a great deal of himself and his desires to go and defend his beloved America. He had missed his first and only child’s birth; she was two years old when he met her. His body and mind had been forever scarred by the savagery of war. I was never more proud than when I saw the Purple Heart my great-grandfather had received. I can still hear these words, sounding out of his throat like a victory speech:

… and as I watched those brave brothers of mine raise our flag,
I knew that all I had been through,
and was going to have to go through, was worth it.

How could anyone, especially children who have never had to defend their rights and freedoms, destroy and disrespect what so many men like my great-grandfather had loved and honored enough to risk their lives? America’s youth was shaming and downgrading all that our veterans and soldiers have done to give and allow us to keep our freedom and independence.

The bell that signaled the stampede out of the current class to the next rang and caused me to shriek. I hurried to catch up with my classmates and dismissed my thoughts to be rekindled another day. There is one clear thought, though, that resounds in my head often. It is the fact that we, the youth of America, are the biggest threat to our freedom, but we are also freedom’s biggest hope. Our veterans and soldiers have done their part to preserve our freedom, now the youth must step up and realize theirs.

Written By:
Haley Wease
Dual-enrolled as an 11th grade student at Milton High School, Milton Florida and Pensacola Junior College in 2007
Page 100