As we pause this weekend to honor those whose Supreme Sacrifice has purchased the many freedoms we we enjoy as Americans, I find myself pausing to reflect on how truly remarkable that gift is. Freedom.

The first soldier who fell on the village green in Lexington, Mass.,  in April of 1775 realized that freedom was more precious than life, although I doubt that he was looking 244 years into the future when he grabbed his musket and went out into the night to answer the warning of Paul Revere—and William Dawes.

But here we are with the opportunity to go where we will, or stay put, work hard for a living, if we choose and take a risk or not. I appreciate that freedom and all it encompasses. This weekend marks another special occasion for me, one that is a direct result of living in a land so free.

I am celebrating an anniversary, of sorts. Six years ago, on this very weekend, I boarded a plane in Atlanta with about 50 of my closest friends — or those who would be — and we headed off to visit the spot where that first American soldier fell in Lexington — along with most of the other special attractions that the Boston area has to offer.

I christened the group Huck’s Tours, because when you make reservations for a group on airplanes and at hotels and restaurants and other attractions, they want your group to have a name and “Darrell Huckaby’s contingent of people enjoying history and travel” wouldn’t fit in any of the spaces.

I had no idea that the first Huck’s Tour would lead to another. I was just trying to fulfil a promise I made folks who showed up at the monthly American History lunch-and-lecture series I hosted at my church. I said I’d take them on a field trip at the end. I had been diagnosed with stage-four cancer in 2013 and really didn’t expect to be around to write a column on Memorial Day weekend in 2019. Or 2014, for that matter.

But here I sit, on an airplane over the Atlantic Ocean, returning to the greatest country in the long history of the world with 50 more of my closest friends. We have visited London and Normandy and Paris, and I am still calling these groups Huck’s Tours.

This is the 73rd such trip. Is God amazing or what?

He has allowed me to host 73 trips to all 50 states — 48 of them at least twice — and 40 foreign nations. More than 3,000 travelers have accompanied me, although not nearly that many individual people because there have been lots and lots and lots of repeaters. If our plane lands safely in Atlanta, we will have gotten them all home safely.

Well, there were a couple of people that had to have their daughters pick them up in deep South Georgia, and we did leave Dottie Covington and Mary East at Radio City Music Hall one cold December night, but the hotel was right across the street and everything was fine.

We’ve spent 750 days on the road, give or take. It has rained 11 times.

I have made friends that will last a lifetime and, what’s more important, hundreds of other people have made lifetime friends with one another through our travels.

We have visited the top of the Empire State Building in New York, the top of the Tower formerly known as Sears in Chicago, the top of the John Hancock Building in Boston, the CN Tower in Canada and the Eiffel Tower in Paris. We’ve seen Yellowstone and Glacier, the Grand Tetons and the Grand Canyon, Badlands National Parks in both the Dakotas and Denali National Park in Alaska, among many others.

We have stayed at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Mich., the Greenbrier in West Virginia, the DuPont in Wilmington, Del., the Del Coronado in San Diego and the Shack Up Inn in Clarksdale, Miss. — and hundreds of others.

We have travelled by plane, ship, cable car, and bicycle, and have ridden thousands and thousands of miles in a motor coach driven by Shane Clayton, World’s Greatest Bus Driver and one of the best friends a tour group could ever have.

We’ve seen baseball games in Wrigley Field, Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park and rodeos in Houston, Calgary and Cody, Wyo., and we’ve stood on a corner in Winslow, Ariz. It’s hard to remember what we’ve seen in Rome, Prague, Budapest, Athens, Vienna and all the other places the Good Lord has allowed us to go. I will tell you this. It’s a long way from Porterdale, Georgia to the places we have been.

I’m not telling you all this to beat my own drum or stir up business. I am simply testifying to the Goodness of Almighty Providence and the greatness of the American free enterprise system. I am truly blessed by both.

My cup runneth over.

Darrell Huckaby is an author in Rockdale County. Email him at dhuck008@gmail.com.

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