by Rep. Darrio Melton
Yesterday, we took a day out of our busy lives to remember those who fought to protect the freedoms we enjoy as Americans. From our inception as a nation, men and women have gone to war and fought at home, because they believed in protecting one nation under God, with liberty and justice for all.
I’m eternally grateful for all the men and women who have served and those who continue to serve. For those brave individuals and families who put everything on the line to protect our rights and freedoms, there is no way to fully say thank you. There’s no expression of gratitude immense enough to match the sacrifices you have been willing to make.
As an elected official, I think about the cost of Democracy often. I think about what America would look like without free and open elections, and about where we would be without the Constitution and the rights that protect us. I think about people who don’t vote, and about the people who gave their lives so that others could.
I owe my ability to go to Montgomery and do the people’s work to the men and women who have protected my right to speak the consensus of my district and protected the peoples’ rights to cast their votes. And I remember that each day I walk into the House of Representatives. I have a duty, not just to my district and to the state of Alabama, but to the men and women in the armed services who paved the way for me to be where I am.
Which is why I find it abhorrent that my fellow legislators have allowed 17 veterans’ services centers to close across Alabama since 2012, and have passed a budget that would close those centers in Lamar, Pickens and Greene counties. We should be making our veterans’ needs a priority, from medical care to housing assistance. These aren’t entitlement programs, they’re obligations to repay a debt that we owe as a society in exchange for their sacrifices.
In a state with the highest per capita rate of veterans–420,000 people totaling almost nine percent of Alabama residents–I find it egregious that lawmakers would cut services for the very men and women who fought to allow them to stand in that chamber and introduce the legislation to do so.
Being thankful for our armed services isn’t just about attending a program and mentioning them in our prayers on Memorial Day. It’s about taking the time out in all that we do to remember who made it possible, and paying it back when we have the opportunity. It’s about remembering the hard sacrifices that allow us the advantages of living in the United States of America.
So for the next 365 days, until it’s Memorial Day again, don’t forget to remember.
Representative Darrio Melton is a Democrat from Selma. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010 and currently serves as the chair of the House Democratic Caucus.