This post has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with why I am proud to be an American.

I am a pastor. Election Day morning found me at Fort Snelling National Cemetery leading a graveside service. It was a cold, dreary, gray morning. Standing at the grave, in dress blues, ramrod straight, was a soldier the age of my sons. He was standing at attention as a sign of respect to honor the deceased, whom he had never met.

The color guard commenced the 21-gun salute. Buglers played taps. The widow was presented with an American flag, on behalf of the president of the United States. The weight of more than 200 years of presidents having to make the difficult call of when to put men and women in harm's way suddenly became very real.

Whoever was elected president on this day would bear that weight. I was struck by the challenges the president we would elect would face.

We were surrounded by a sea of white gravestones, each commemorating someone who had risked their life for the decisions we would be free to make this day. I was humbled by members of the military, past and present.

I returned to the church I serve. We are a polling place. James, an election judge who worked over 14 hours on Election Day, cheerfully greeted each voter. There must be representation by both Republican and Democratic election judges at each polling place. Here they were, working side by side. You couldn't tell their party affiliation. I was thankful for men and women serving democracy in such a concrete way.

I watched a parade of people, a veritable rainbow of skin tones and ages, arrive to perform their civic duty. I was proud of the people who chose to exercise their freedom, the freedom for which the soldiers at the cemetery had given their lives. I was also deeply grieved knowing that some people would choose not to exercise that same freedom and civic responsibility. Freedom, a friend reminded me, is a double-edged sword.

A couple arrived in a customized van with a wheelchair lift. They easily unloaded from their vehicle, rolled up to the front door of the church, used the automatic door opener, and navigated our building without difficulty. I was thankful for the men and women who had served on the building committee who had made certain our facility would be accessible for all.

I was stuck again by the power of democracy, the privilege of free speech and the freedom to vote, as our conscience dictates, without fear of violence or retribution.

I was thankful and oh-so-proud of my country, my town and my church. Whether "my" candidate won didn't seem so important. Before the polls had closed, or any state declared for a candidate, I had witnessed victory.

The Rev. Karen Bruins, Rosemount