By Minority Leader Rep. Craig Ford
We are very good in this country of remembering our veterans and celebrating our freedom. Every year, we devote three holidays to our country and those who have served in the military: Veterans Day, Memorial Day, and Independence Day.
As a veteran, I am proud and grateful that our country honors it’s veterans. But sometimes I wonder if our country truly understands the costs of our freedom.
We all know that freedom isn’t free. But most Americans have never been to third world countries or to countries with oppressive regimes. Most of us have only ever known freedom, and have not had to live in a place where poverty and oppression are the norm.
And while I appreciate a good war movie as much as the next person, war movies and video games don’t paint an accurate picture of what men and women face in combat. In the real world, the war doesn’t end after two hours, and you don’t come back to life when you die.
Now I know we all know this. But do we really think about it? When we thank a veteran on Veterans Day or now our heads in a moment if silent reflection on Memorial Day, do we think about the choice these veterans made to be willing to sacrifice everything so that we can vote, speak freely and live our lives without fear of persecution?
Last week, my friend and colleague, Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow from Red Bay, invited 4th, 5th and 6th graders from his local school to attend a special Veterans Day program.
At the program, local veterans came and spoke to the children about their experiences in the military. There were veterans there from every war since World War II, including two veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The program also included a homemade museum featuring local veterans, and was concluded by allowing the children to ride in actual military trucks and vehicles from every American war since WWII.
But the purpose of this great event was to give these children an opportunity to learn what the costs of our freedom has been.
These kids learned first hand from veterans about the sacrifices made for our freedom. And when the day was done, they didn’t just feel a sense of pride and patriotism. They understood what it means to be free, and they left that program with a new appreciation for the price that has been paid for our freedom.
This Veterans Day, I hope that we all will remember the lessons that these children learned. I hope that we will truly consider the sacrifices that have been made, and consider what our brave men and women in uniform have been willing to give up so that we wouldn’t have to give it up.
If you are a veteran, then from the bottom of my heart I thank you for your service and sacrifice. And to those who are still serving, I pray God will keep you and being you home soon.
Rep. Craig Ford is a Democrat from Gadsden. He is a veteran of the U.S. Army Reserve and the Alabama National Guard. He is currently the Minority Leader in the Alabama House if Representatives.