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Freedom comes in guises

F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo -- We know them, but we forget them.

We ignore them, yet we cherish them.

They number in the hundreds of thousands, and there is only one word.

Freedom.

Freedom comes in several guises: liberty, choice, free will, independence and rights.

Those last two words might ring with thoughts of America's "Declaration of Independence" and "Bill of Rights". Both are marvelous documents that define the heart of our country.

The first declares that every human has the right to live happy and free. Then the "Bill of Rights" protects every American's freedom to say what they want, to worship however they wish, to gather for a common cause, to write about anything and to tell the government when they're not happy. Most citizens know these, but there's so much more.

We have the freedom to not permit the search and seizure of our property without a warrant or due cause. We have the freedom from being coerced into admitting guilt of a crime, and we have the freedom to demand a speedy trail.

But our freedoms continue to go far beyond these. We have the freedom to choose who represents us in government. For those of us in the military, we have the freedom to pick who we want to be our commander in chief. And whether we vote or not, that too is our freedom.

It's that freedom of choice that often goes unrecognized. We have the freedom to choose what we want to buy or where we shop. We have the freedom to choose what show we watch on TV or not to watch TV at all. We have the freedom to choose whether we eat a completely organic meal or a mechanically processed hamburger that comes in a non-biodegradable container. It's freedom. Enjoy it.

Whether to walk, ride a bicycle, take a bus or drive a gas-guzzling monster truck, that choice is part of our freedom. Believe in a god, hundreds of gods, a mystic frog or nothing at all. Help the homeless, paint your car from spray cans, become a workaholic or get a pet stump and call it "Bob". We have that freedom.

Choose to devote part of your life to defend these freedoms or choose to leave that burden for others so that you may do what you wish -- that's freedom, and there's nothing more precious.

American patriot Patrick Henry summed it best when he stated, "Give me liberty or give me death." Those powerful words encapsulate an undeniable truth: Life is not life without freedom.

So this holiday, whether you choose to eat a traditional turkey meal, a bean sprout casserole or a deep-pan pizza, take a moment and be thankful for that freedom to choose and the many other freedoms we so often take for granted.

Or don't. That's freedom too.