The Sound of Freedom: Reflections on Independence Day

On the future of America, American citizens, and the call to liberty. Photo: U.S. Air Force File Photo

HAWAII, July 2, 2012 — Growing up as the son of an Air Force officer, I spent most of my formative years in places like the former Langley Air Force Base in Virginia or Andersen AFB in Guam, where our military was the tip of the spear to deter aggression from the Soviet Union. It wasn’t uncommon for the windows to rattle and the paintings on the wall to shake every time an aircraft took off under full power, its engines making an unforgettable, ear-busting roar overhead.

Some considered the jet noise to be a nuisance, but my father had a special name for it which I will never forget. In 1984 as a young boy I saw an F-4 Phantom II fly overhead for the first time ever and my father squeezed my hand and pointed to the sky. “Do you know what that sound is?” he asked. “It’s called the sound of freedom.”

It was a phrase my father would repeatedly invoke over the years every time one of our planes flew by. He never explained the concept in full, but I could tell from the look in his eyes precisely what he meant. My father’s military protected a nation worth defending and a unique liberty found nowhere else in the world. The roar of the jets to him was a loud affirmation that we’d hold the line for America’s freedom with all of the thundering power of courage, faith and honor God invested inside of us.

It also embodied the fact that the highest aspiration of an American should always be to go higher, faster and farther than anyone before him. Americans compete, Americans win and Americans never compromise when it comes to being the best of the best. America is first, always - and no points for second place.

My father was not the only man who believed that, nor was he the only one who served with that kind of devotion. In fact, his ideals were typical of his generation of men. I once sat in on a retirement ceremony at Randolph AFB and listened as an Air Force colonel tearfully recalled the story of one of his friends, an A-37 Dragonfly pilot who crashed into a mountain and perished. The pilot’s brother would later join the Marines, only to die on his first deployment overseas. The sacrifices of wearing the uniform were many, sometimes even bitterly unfair – but these men lived and died with an unshakeable confidence that America stood for freedom.

In light of these things, I believe with all of my heart, soul and strength that we as a people need to strive to make and keep America a nation worth defending. While we have many good reasons to be proud of America’s past, I find it difficult to be proud of the changes that now constitute America’s present day.

Our troops are scattered abroad and fighting conflicts without end all around the world with no clearly defined enemy or definition for victory. Our country is witnessing the emergence of a sharp, wide rift not so much between lower, middle and upper classes but between haves and have nots.

We say that America is a place where freedom is revered and cherished, yet today crisis is invoked as a pretext to introduce sweeping, shocking laws that restrict the flexibility of personal choice and hamstring success. Over the last six years alone, every session of the Congress is characterized not by what gets done but by what needs to be stopped before more liberties evaporate. The question I have to ask is this: Did we as Americans really defeat the Soviet Union and stand so firmly against communism only to later incorporate their ideas into our own government?

Just what kind of country are our men in uniform returning to when they come home from places like Afghanistan? Are they returning to an America worthy of their sacrifices and losses upon the altar of freedom? I absolutely refuse to believe that 18 year olds are being sent into meat grinders abroad only to come home to a country where scarcity, inflation and government compulsion are their reward.

What is the purpose of giving freedom to Libya or demanding freedom in Syria if we ourselves do not have it at home in the United States of America?

Celebration of America’s independence without commitment to the responsibility of citizenship is empty symbol without substance. This week, we need to ask ourselves an unpopular yet critical question: Does America still speak the language of freedom, or do we speak the language of danger to our own people?

It is time to commit this Fourth of July to a new spirit of independence, of excellence and unrestrained opportunity. We should remember the sacrifices of those who held the line on our borders and honor their legacy by holding the line on freedom.

Many challenges confront us. Much time has passed and many opportunities have been lost. But the faith of our fathers and the legacy of their deeds should be today’s roar in our ears, the new sound of freedom moving us as a people to go higher, faster and farther than America has ever gone before.

We can do it. We’re Americans, and that name needs to stand for something … again.

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Danny de Gracia

Dr. Danny de Gracia is a political scientist and a former senior adviser to the Human Services and International Affairs committees at the Hawaii State Legislature. From 2011-2013 he served as an elected municipal board member in Waipahu. As an expert in international relations theory, military policy, political psychology and economics, Danny has advised numerous policymakers and elected officials and his opinions have been featured worldwide. Now working on his first novel, Danny resides on the island of Oahu.

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