Always thank our veterans

Published 9:39 pm Tuesday, November 10, 2015

By CRAIG FORD | Alabama House Minority Leader

November is a time to be thankful. Of course, we celebrate Thanksgiving later on in the month. But November is also the time when we celebrate Veterans Day, and give thanks to all those who have served our country.

Veterans Day began as a day to remember those who served in World War I. That war ended at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, so Veterans Day has always been celebrated on November 11th. But now the day is meant to remember those who have served in the military at any time, not just during World War I.

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Veterans Day is also different from Memorial Day because Memorial Day is set aside to remember those who have died in service to our country, whereas Veterans Day honors all those who have served during peace time or war.

Veterans Day allows us to take time away from work and other obligations so that we can reflect on the sacrifices that have been made for our freedom and security, and so that we can honor all those who have sworn to defend our country.

Growing up, I can’t count the number of times I heard the saying, “Freedom is not free.” Those are words that are easy to say, but sometimes hard to truly appreciate. But those words inspired me to serve in the Army Reserve and the Alabama National Guard, just as they did my dad.

It was during my time in the military that I began to truly realize the meaning of those words, and just how much our freedom has cost. The sheer sacrifice our veterans and their families have made for this country humbles me every time I think about it. Simply saying thank you doesn’t seem to be enough, and yet, that’s all many that veterans have ever asked. They deserve so much more!

It breaks my heart when I read about some of the problems our VA system has had over the years, or about VA centers closing throughout Alabama (the state closed 17 of them in 2012!).

These problems show the difficulties our veterans face when they come home, and the challenge that our elected leaders face. But it is a challenge that we must face.

In the meantime, we should all pause and take time to thank our nation’s heroes for their service. Veterans Day is more than just a day off work or a day out of school; it is more than a time to grill out and watch reruns of war movies. Veterans Day is a time to remember that freedom isn’t free. It has cost us dearly.

This year I encourage each and every person to not only celebrate Veterans Day by saying thank you and praying for the safety of those serving, but to take some sort of action to show your appreciation.

We must be grateful always for our veterans. But we need to show them our gratitude by living each day as proud Americans, worthy of their sacrifice, proving President Kennedy correct, that the highest appreciation we can show our nation’s heroes is not by uttering words, but by living them.