The True Cost of Freedom – Veterans Day 2023

Freedom Isn’t Free

In a few days, America will celebrate its living warfighters. Many of them survived combat; all of them survived the ordeal of serving in the United States Military.

Just because they are alive doesn’t mean they have stopped fighting.

America’s military Veterans join those worldwide who are fighting visible and invisible wounds of combat.

And, as in many other countries around the world, Veterans fight the invisible, non-combat wounds of military service.

The most profound wound of all, for Veterans and civilians alike, is the hurt that comes from realizing that freedom isn’t free.

Usually, people assume that someone else must die in order for liberty to be retained by the living. This is, sadly, an unsustainable myth.

Is The World More Free Today?

Is the world more free today in 2023 than it was at Y2K?

Is the world more at peace today than it was one hundred years ago? Two hundred? Do more people live in liberty now than when, say, the Age of Enlightenment offered a better vision of human potential than the Dark Ages?

And, about that myth that it is honorable to die for freedom, have any of the wars fought by America in the last couple of hundred years resulted in more freedom? Think about it. Carefully.

No dishonor to military Veterans, American and worldwide. You served as promised. We honor that. And we must admit: we let you down. You worked for us as human beings; we allowed the State to sacrifice your brothers and sisters in arms, and we have perpetuated the myth that this – all of this – was the just and noble thing to do.

We were wrong.

A Challenge

Here’s a challenge: demonstrate how the wars fought over the last two hundred years, particularly by (or instigated by) America, have made America and the world more free. Americans enjoy less freedom today than we did at the time of the Boston Tea Party. In your response, address these four facts:

    • Taxes are higher, especially because taxation without representation is rampant;
    • Inflation is destroying wealth accumulation;
    • Income inequality is wider than ever in history;
    • Mental illness, crime, and suicide are higher than ever before in recorded history.


Then, let’s discuss the loss of life that has brought us to this sorry state.

A world citizen looking at the results of the American experiment with democracy is right to narrow their eyes and furrow their brow in suspicion. No mistake: America’s Veterans have given – and will continue to give – much, however, they are scapegoats for the corruption that has powered every war in which they fought, beginning even before the War of 1812.

War Truth

You don’t have to take my word for it or argue with me about it. The research you need has already been done and is published at Take a look, think about it, and only then comment on this article.

Here’s how the truth looks today.

My son serves in the United States Marines Reserve. A couple of years ago he said to me “Dad, I know exactly where I’m going to die.” You see, he had seen the battle plans and had come to understand that his unit would be part of a “speed bump” in some distant part of the world, designed to help slow advancing enemy forces while the “regular” military got into place behind him.

Now, that’s the reality of military service. I get it. What I don’t get is that America, like many other modern nations, still relies on war to unify the folks at home and boost its economy. That doesn’t sound like freedom to me. America seems more fractured than at any time in its history, real wages haven’t risen since the 1970s, inflation is out of control, housing is unaffordable for most, etc. Sure, we’re free…if we can afford it.

And that’s why my son could be sent to die? For those noble causes?

Do you see America jumping up to stop powerful dictators in the world from oppressing the citizens of their dictatorships? No you don’t. And why? Because America’s elected leaders are content to oppress Americans, keep us divided from each other, and fool us about the need for military might.

Has military might stopped Russia from annexing Crimea or invading Ukraine? Has military might solved the multi-millennial war in the Middle East? How is military might working to dissuade China from oppressing the formerly “free” people of Hong Kong, or threatening the people of Taiwan?

Are we any closer to the potential envisioned by John F Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev in 1963, a potential quite different from mutually assured destruction? What policies have changed in sustainable ways that make the world more safe, more free, more pleasant, and less disaster-prone?

Sorry, War: you lose.

Peace or…

War is not enough to address income inequity. Yes: poverty is on the decline worldwide, particularly as Africa transitions into world economic status. America’s Veterans had little to do with that.

War isn’t a solution for the increasing threat to our worldwide environment. Instead, the potential for conflict over basics such as fresh water, clean air, and arable land escalates, even as economic incentives to address those threats favor the wealthy few at the expense of the many poor. What Veteran wants credit for that?

Military Veterans of America, your service is being wasted by the government we have all elected – a government that can’t or won’t work for peace and collaboration on the basics. How does that honor you?

Many Americans feel that globalization is a threat to liberty, as if Americans would have to give up something dear for the rest of the world’s benefit. Military Veterans of America have already fought under the United Nations flag for global causes, and to what end? One potential benefit of globalization is global peace and cooperation; how has the opposite been working for America? For the world?

Do you not see that the economy of our world is already global, not national? That the way America behaves internally will also bankrupt the world economy so long as America fails to embrace the reality of globalism?

Do you not see that cooperation for the benefit of both works at the macro level as well as the micro?

If there can be a price put on freedom, human military lives are one part, yes. To be honest, though, we must also add the cost of lost opportunity, lost advancement, lost growth, lost potential, and the withering cost of lost hope, lost sanity, and loss of civilian life that results.

Balance that cost against the cost of peace, and you may arrive at the moment faced by Kennedy and Khrushchev. Our world is staring into that abyss once again.

Will we throw more human lives away on political wars whose only outcomes are moral, fiscal, and behavioral bankruptcy, or finally and fully face the potential for peace?

No More Lies

At the very least, America can honor its military Veterans by refusing to believe the lies of war. Americans can encourage leaders in what’s left of our democratic process to act more skillfully, to hold warmongers accountable for their past crimes against America and the world, and to shun the repeat offenses of the past.

America can either decline into a mockery of what might have been or transform into a true 21st-century beacon of hope and peace. The light of freedom burns only when its fuel is earned by noble and selfless acts that show, without doubt, that America still stands for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

That’s a big “why,” and while oppressed people still come to America because of it, America ought to consider the oppression it has wrought on its citizens and, in some ways, the world, as a result of getting the American “how” wrong.

A Vietnam Veteran I know often remarks: “We fought for this?” Think about that this Veterans Day. Veterans and active-duty military service members, guards, and reserves aren’t a commodity for politicians to use as needed, nor is war a valid excuse for security or liberty in our age. If America truly wants to honor the cost of its past wars, Americans will need to undo the lies, honor the mistakes that resulted from them, and find a new way to partner for leadership in the coming new world.


Over the course of more than 40 years of paying attention to how music works on us, Bill Protzmann re-discovered the fundamental nature and purpose of music. For many years, Bill has experimented with what he learned through performing concerts, giving lectures, facilitating workshops, and teaching classes. For example, he first published on the powerful extensibility of music into the business realm in 2006 (here and abstract here). Ten years later, in 2016, he consolidated his work into the Musimorphic Quest. In this guided, gamified, experiential environment, participants discover and remember their innate connection to this ancient transformative technology. Also, The National Council for Behavioral Healthcare recognized Bill in 2014 with an Inspiring Hope award for Artistic Expression, the industry equivalent of winning an Oscar.

Picture of Bill