By Rep. Darrio Melton
Memorial Day is a special day for Americans. It’s the day we celebrate our freedom and remember those who fought and died to protect it.
We say, “freedom isn’t free” and we know America is the “land of the free and home of the brave,” but how often do we stop and think about what it means to have the rights and freedoms we hold so dear?
In America, we have the right to cast our ballots however we so choose. We have the right to assemble, practice religion openly, and share dissenting views. We have the right to live free from institutionalized discrimination and oppression. We have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
All of these freedoms, we owe to the brave men and women who have served at home and abroad–both to obtain these freedoms from our nation’s genesis and to defend those freedoms whenever they have been in danger.
To everyone who has served, and to the families who sacrificed alongside them: Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
To those who have lost loved ones in service to our country: No words I could write would ever ease your pain, but I hope you will find comfort and strength in knowing that this country is a safer, better place thanks to the dedication and bravery your family shows.
But on this day of remembrance, we must also not forget the brave men and women who served our country and those who still do.
Yet in America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, suicide rates for veterans are among the nation’s highest. More veterans are homeless and lack access to quick and efficient health care.
In Alabama, 17 veterans service centers have closed over the past four years due to budget cuts. The VA hospitals are running the risk of closure around the state.
We can say thank you on Memorial Day, or we can show our gratitude by calling on Congress and the state legislature to fully fund veterans’ programs.
No man or woman should risk life and limb to protect this country, only to come home and experience anything less than the full benefits of what they are: a hero.
On Memorial Day and every day, thank our service men and women when you pass them on the street. Hold your elected officials accountable to providing the benefits we owe. Because only by fully honoring the men and women who have protected us can we truly be proud to be an American.
Representative Darrio Melton is a Democrat from Selma. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010.