Americans’ freedom paid for by patriots

Kirtland Air Force Base, NM -- Of all the principles that became a reality with the birth of our nation, none is more cherished by our citizens than their freedom to live as they choose.

All Americans enjoy that freedom as their birthright, and many have chosen to defend that freedom by serving the nation, both in and out of uniform.

Those who serve know that freedom and responsibility go hand-in-hand, and some of them have risked everything they have to protect our freedom.

In the 235 years since the signers of the American Declaration of Independence mutually pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes, and sacred honor, hundreds of thousands of Americans have accepted that risk and paid the ultimate price.

The current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have claimed the lives of more than 4,700 American patriots.

None of them chose to give up their lives -- they chose to take a stand when their country needed them.

The courage and sacrifice of so many over the years underwrites the freedoms we enjoy today.

Their actions give meaning to the phrase, "Freedom isn't free."

Celebrating our nation's independence is and should be a joyous time for all Americans.

Along with the holiday barbecues and fireworks, please take a few moments to remember the men and women, past and present, who have willingly paid the price of freedom for all of us.

Enjoy the holiday safely.