From the Commander, Council of Kadosh (July, 2013)

posted May 27, 2015, 2:16 PM by San Jose Scottish Rite   [ updated May 27, 2015, 2:16 PM ]
Written by Lee Greenwood and first released as a single in 1984, "God bless the USA" 
reached No. 7 on the country charts. 
Here is the chorus:
"And I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I won't forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.
"And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA."
I first heard that song at the California International Air Show in Salinas California in 1992 or 1993.
The Russians were the center attraction of the show. The show happened shortly after the dissolution of the Soviet Union (December 1991), and the newly reinstated country of Russia was represented by a sleek Sukhoi Su-33 prototype fighter plane that looked an awful lot like a US Navy F-14 Tomcat. And an enormous Anatov AN-225 cargo plane, which had a navigator station below the cockpit with a big front window. 
Russian aircraft sported the traditional red star emblem but also the Russian "Tricolor," the new flag with its three horizontal stripes in white, blue, and red. I liked their choice of colors.
Attendees could climb a ladder and look into the cockpit of the Sukhoi but not take any pictures. Since there was a lot more room in the expansive Anatov, you could climb on board and walk around. As I stepped up, a Russian aviator smiled, took my hand, and said in decent English, "Welcome to Russia!" to which I responded with equal cheer, "Welcome to the United States!"
The Cold War was finally over and two nations who had been enemies for half a century were becoming friends. And it happened not because we Americans compromised, or because we beat the tar out of the Soviets, but because the Russians finally shook off Soviet rule and took back their country. Kudos to Mr. Gorbachev, Mr. Yeltzen, and their courageous comrades who ushered that long-needed reformation. A reformation that is still in progress, as we note from ongoing news reports.
Now, back to the song.
"And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free."
A counter point to that is the song, "Me And Bobby McGee," written by Johnny Cash and Charlie Williams, sung by Kris Kristofferson:
"Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose, And nothin' ain't worth nothin' but it's free…"
Freedom is a priceless gift, especially in today's world, so compromised by human failings. To that I would like to add the word "opportunity." All that I have achieved or gained in my life, such as it is, came from the opportunities that I recognized and exploited. I put in the work, but the opportunity itself came as a gift. Of course, I receive no credit or benefit from the opportunities that I missed. 
Lee Greenwood continues, 
"And I won't forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me."
Here I go again with another counterpoint. The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence 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."
Here we may substitute the word "liberty" for "freedom." More importantly, consider this definition of unalienable rights:
"You cannot surrender, sell or transfer unalienable rights, they are a gift from the creator to the individual and cannot under any circumstances be surrendered or taken. All individual's have unalienable rights." From Black's Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition, page 1523.
It is not the government nor the soldier who gives those rights. However, it is the purpose and duty of the government and the soldier to secure and protect them. In the course of our history, we have lost close to one million American men and women who gave their lives in the cause of freedom and opportunity.
In light of these gifts and sacrifices, I feel too humbled to use the word "proud." Here is my version of the refrain, "I'm thankful to be an American."

Daniel Doornbos
From the Commander , Council of Kadosh