May 25, 2024

How often do we take into consideration that the freedom we have was not free? How many times have we thought to ourselves during the day, “No matter what, the lives of those around me matter more?” Probably not that frequently.

As Americans, we have the ability to remember, celebrate and thank those who have placed their lives in danger, even forfeited their lives, for our safety and comfort.

However, days of remembrance have evolved into more of a holiday of relaxation, rather than taking the time to remember and commemorate those who have served our country.

On Sept. 11, 2001, America was shattered when the Twin Towers fell in New York City, yet it rallied the nation together in one humbled voice of patriotism and pride in the men and women who rose to the call of extreme danger and need.

With many family members being veterans of both World War II and the Vietnam War, I have learned the importance of gratitude in many areas of life.

In 2006, a class trip to Washington, D.C., forever changed my perspective on the sacrifices those who serve our country make. Seeing the Tomb of the Unknown soldier, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall and the still massive pile of rubble and debris of Ground Zero was more moving than could ever be anticipated.

Each trip was silent, prayerful and even emotional. Remembering the monumental periods was humbling, but had yet to prepare me for my next moving encounter.

An elderly man sat alone near a fountain in D.C. wearing a navy blue hat displaying the word “VETERAN” in bold white letters. I approached him with my friend, stuck out my hand to shake his and told him, “Thank you for your service.” Immediately, he squeezed my hand, smiled and said, “You’re welcome.”

A quick chat let me know he was a Pearl Harbor veteran, thrown into the chaos of the surprise attack at a very young age. He explained that he wore his hat every day so that he too would be reminded of those who served, sacrificed and died protecting our country.   

Someone who fought tirelessly for our freedom made it a point to remind himself of what it truly means to be free. We can do the same in appreciating, thanking and supporting those who are selfless enough to put their lives in harm’s way.

So many unforseen and tragic events happen in our world, and while we do not necessarily need to support the ways in which the world chooses to handle its misfortunes and tribulations, we can certainly support those who are willing to step up and embrace the change needed to make our country and world a
better place.

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