Lilac Princess Natalie Szabo's award winning essay on Veterans - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Lilac Princess Natalie Szabo's award winning essay on Veterans

"Service and Sacrifice by America's Veterans Benefit Today's Youth by..."

by Natale Szabo

If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read it in English, thank a soldier." My AP European history teacher, and also one of the single most intelligent educators at my high school, has this saying on a poster sitting outside of her room. Every single day hundreds of students pass by. Some of them stop and look, some ignore it, and some barely notice its existence. Few students actually think about it.

It's amazing the level of freedom we have in this country, and how much we take it for granted. This year is a historical time in politics, being the 2008 presidential elections. Wait - what was that I just said? Elections? We have the power to actually choose who represents us? And we don't even have to worry about riots or people waiting with guns outside of the election booth? Many people wouldn't think twice about this. But you and I know that our country is a political anomaly in the scope of the world. The first amendment alone allows Americans to worship at a synagogue, a Christian church, or a mosque, read or publish nearly anything imaginable, and bring huge numbers of people together in a protest. Rich or poor, female or male - Americans have the right to an education, and every single one of us is lucky enough to be tried in front of a jury in the court of law.

But let's take it further. Not only can we vote on who represents us, but once they're in office, we can rant, scream, blog, and Photoshop compromising pictures of them all we want. Where else can you do that with the sort of nonchalant attitude that we regard it with? Whether we agree with those things or not, we're allowed to do it.

Those liberties haven't come to us without a cost. If it weren't for a group of brave rebel-rousers in the 1700s, we'd still be spelling color with a "u" and answering to an island in Europe. Every single thing that we Americans take so selfishly as a "right" instead of a "privilege," has been paid for in blood, tears, and pure determination. We are a country with a population in a league of our own. We are the owners of the American dream and that famous ingenuity that has sparked so much greatness. And at the heart of all of that? Our soldiers. Our brave, selfless, always persevering soldiers.

So what am I thankful for? What do I, a 17-year-old girl who likes designer clothes and only eats organic food, feel appreciative of? I'm thankful for my intelligence. I'm thankful for being able to question what's happening to me and who's controlling it. I'm thankful to be able to debate my fellow seniors about last night's headlines every morning in history class. I'm thankful for being able to wear jeans instead of a dress every day. I'm thankful for my dad, an escapee from the oppressions of Soviet Hungary, to be able to create a prosperous life in America. I'm thankful for the parents, the children, and the siblings who have so selflessly seen their loved ones off to war. I'm thankful that I attend a high school where half of the students have parents who are members of the United States Military, for it is because of that personal connection that I have grown such an appreciation for our armed forces. I'm thankful for the food on my table, the clothes

on my back, the shoes on my feet, the TV in my house, the books that I read, and the life that I live. I'm thankful, and I owe every bit of it to the veterans that have sacrificed for me. Their health, their time, and their families - our military has always put the good of the people above their own well-being.

Most of us haven't been in the throes of war, and don't know what it's like to be shot at. Most of us wouldn't have the guts to be out there on the frontline. Lucky for us, we have our heroes in shining camo. Whether you're a republican or a democrat, a protester or supporter of our war in Iraq, a welder or a CEO; you live your life as freely as you do because of a soldier. So next time you see a man or woman in uniform, stop, take off your hat, shake their hand, and thank them from th

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