Freedom isn't free

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"Freedom Is Not Free" engraved on the Washington, D.C. Korean War Veterans Memorial.

"Freedom isn't free", "freedom is not free", "freedom's not free", or "freedom ain't free" is an American idiom. The expression is used to describe sacrifice during times of crisis, being used widely in the United States to express gratitude to the military for defending freedom. It may be used as a rhetorical device.

The phrase is more generally used to describe how Americans responded to the 9/11 attacks, "...the aftermath of the attacks, our city, our nation and people across the world came together..."[1] The phrase has been used by both conservative and liberals alike to describe the tragedy and the sacrifices of both the American people and its military after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.[2] As the ideal that sacrifice was necessary to battle terrorism, legislation was passed such as the Patriot Act which gave the American government considerable reach into surveillance of lives of common citizens. The act is now a controversial topic as some claim it's necessary to combat ongoing terrorism and others see it as a needless expansion of the federal government.[3][4][5]


The idiom expresses gratitude to the military, implicitly stating that the freedoms enjoyed by many citizens in many democracies are possible only through the risks taken and sacrifices made by those in the military, drafted or not. The saying is often used to convey respect specifically to those who are considered to have given their lives in defense of freedom. It is accredited to Col. Walter Hitchcock of the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, New Mexico.[6]

The phrase can be found in an early recording for Liberal Party of Australia, by a fictional character, John Henry Austral.[7] The series was a part of 200 episodes described as: "part serial, part satire [and] part soapbox." The original topic of the episode was focused on worker's rights and not the military.[citation needed]

"Freedom Is Not Free" is engraved into one wall at the Korean War Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C. There is a reflective pool in front of the memorial.[8]

Popular culture[edit]

"Freedom Isn't Free" is the name of a song by Trey Parker in the 2004 film Team America: World Police[9] and is also the name of a song recorded by Up with People.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "9/11 museum called reminder "that freedom is not free"". Retrieved 2021-07-31.
  2. ^ Freedom is Not Free - Remembering 9/11 (W/Slides), 2011-09-13, retrieved 2021-07-31
  3. ^ "Surveillance Under the USA/PATRIOT Act". American Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved 2021-07-31.
  4. ^ "USA PATRIOT Act | Facts, History, Acronym, & Controversy". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2021-07-31.
  5. ^ "There's Still a Need for the Patriot Act". Retrieved 2021-07-31.
  6. ^ "'Freedom is not free'". Carroll County Comet. May 27, 2020. Retrieved 2021-07-31.
  7. ^ Rubensohn, Sim; Cogger, Pip (1948). "Freedom isn't Free". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  8. ^ "The Memorial". Korean War Vets Memorial. Retrieved 2020-07-01.
  9. ^ Cobb, Thomas J. (2020). American Cinema and Cultural Diplomacy The Fragmented Kaleidoscope. Springer International Publishing. p. 126.
  10. ^ "Freedom Isn't Free". Up with People. Retrieved June 23, 2020.