By Whitney Eversole
Distinguished Young Woman of Utah for 2015
Freedom stinks. Allow me to explain. When I was four years old, I made my first visit to the submarine U.S.S. Tennessee. My dad was an officer on-board, and he was there to greet my mom and me as we arrived at the submarine dock in Georgia. “Let’s go see my boat,” he said proudly as we headed for the big black submarine where he lived during the twelve week tours away from home.
As we climbed down the ladder and I got my first look inside, I couldn’t decide whether the submarine looked more like the electronics department at the local furniture store or the potato chip factory we had visited a few weeks earlier. There were screens, dials, lights, and shiny metal objects everywhere. My fascination suddenly changed to disgust, though, as I smelled a horrible odor inside the boat. Since my mom had reminded me to use my best manners during the tour, I chose not to say anything about the smell. Instead, I decided that I would try to discover for myself where it was coming from as we walked through the submarine.
When I learned that the blue coveralls my dad and the other men wore inside the boat were called “poopie suits,” I thought their clothes might be the source of the awful smell. The room called the “Crew’s Mess” seemed like another possibility to me. While the room was in perfect order at the time, I reasoned that perhaps the men had shoved a smelly mess into nearby closets when they heard a tour was about to start (hence the name Crew’s Mess).
When I finally got a minute alone with my dad near the end of the tour, I whispered to him, “What is that smell?” Knowing that I probably wouldn’t yet understand words like “amine, industrial chemicals,” or “air scrubbers,” my dad looked at me and said, “Sweetie, that’s the smell of freedom.” Because of my experience on the submarine that day, my four-year-old mind translated his answer to, “Freedom stinks.”
Have you ever wondered what freedom smells like? I’ve given some thought to the answer my dad offered years ago, and here are some examples of what freedom smells like to me. Freedom is the tantalizing aroma of hot chocolate steaming from the cups of neighbors gathered in a chilly field to discuss the pros and cons of building a park there. It’s the unmistakable scent of wet pavement that voters encounter as they exit their polling places on a rainy afternoon. It’s the odor of exhaust fumes coming from the string of cars headed to weekend church services. It’s the smell of ink emanating from the editorial page in the local newspaper. It’s the pungent fragrance of fresh paint on the walls of a newly purchased home. The smell of freedom permeates all of these situations because without freedom, they wouldn’t exist.
Activities like gathering at public meetings, voting in state and federal elections, worshipping at church, voicing opinions publicly, and owning personal property are all possible because of the freedoms we are guaranteed as Americans. Those freedoms, along with other rights guaranteed by the Constitution, are ours to enjoy largely because of the contributions and sacrifices made by men and women who have served in the armed forces of our nation over the years of its history.
As Americans, each of us has veterans to whom we owe a debt of honor, respect, and gratitude for the service they rendered in our behalf. My closest and dearest veteran is my dad, who helped protect our freedom as he served in the U.S. Navy on a submarine in the Atlantic, including courageous and unwavering service during the tenuous events of September 11, 2001. My grandpa is a veteran of the Air Force, who worked on the electrical systems of B-52 planes that were so important in defending the freedom of our nation. My great grandfather was an Army veteran who served during World War II, landing on Omaha Beach as part of the D-Day invasion of Europe and winning a Purple Heart during the Battle of the Bulge.
Like me, each of you has veterans who inspire and enrich you through the service they have given…maybe a father or a cousin, a lifelong friend or recent acquaintance, a man who lives down the street or across town. No matter whom the veterans in our lives are, our days are more abundant, more safe, more promising because of their service and sacrifice.
In speaking to his posterity about his service to our nation, John Quincy Adams once said, “You will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it.” His words likely express a sentiment shared by countless veterans who have served over the centuries of our nation’s history in the hope that each of us will make good use of the freedom they preserved for us.
So, the next time you get a whiff of the lunch being served in a public school or smell the blossoms near the door of the cherished place you call “home,” think of ways that you can make your community, your state, your nation better, and then go do them. Remember, freedom stinks. This Veteran’s Day, do your part by passing the smell along.
Whitney Eversole is a college freshman at Utah State University in Logan, Utah. Whitney was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Utah for 2015. Learn more about Whitney here!