EDITOR'S NOTE: The following Memorial Day address originally was presented by Dr. Robert Kirk at the Canyon Ridge Memorial Day/Awards event last week. The Hesperia Star asked for permission to publish the essay as a guest commentary.

There is no such thing as free. Everything has a cost, and it is paid for by someone.

We have all heard about free food, free lunches, free snacks, free trips, free gas or free education. In the 1960s, we even heard about free love. But, once again, there is such thing as free. Someone is paying the price.

Let's look at the word "freedom" itself . Is it free? Absolutely not. Freedom comes at a very high price. Perhaps the highest price of all. It comes with the price of life and blood.

It all started with a very important document, the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

It says:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destuctive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

These ideas, this movement, that ALL men are created equal and endowed by God with certain unchangeable rights, those of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness are unique in history.

Never, I repeat, never in the history of the world had these words been spoken and institutionalized in government. For all men. For all people. Freedom for all!

Well, the words were wonderful, they were revolutionary. But they were just words. How did these words become reality? How were these words of Freedom established?
By the blood, pain, anguish, personal sacrifice and death of millions, that's how.

Here are just a few numbers on those who were wounded or killed to establish Freedom for us:

Revolutionary War - over 10,500 casualities (killed and wounded)

Civil War - over 546,768 casualities

World War I - over 257,000 casualties

World War II - over 963,000 casualties

Korean Conflict - over 136,000 casualties

Vietnam Conflict - over 200,000 casualties

Gulf Wars 1 and 2 - Over 4,000 dead

That's a total dead and wounded of 2,117,268.

No, nothing is free, especially something called "freedom." Its price has been huge, and its payment is never made in full.

The next time you go for a walk in the evening, go to the show, go get some ice cream, go to San Bernardino or Los Angeles, go hangout or swim at the beach, go to school, go to church, read a magazine, a newspaper or view MySpace, remember those who paid your price. Remember their cost.
You owe, we owe so very much to so many.

Dr. Robert Kirk is the president of the Hesperia Unified School District's board of trustees.