JOHNNY FLORES / Coachella Uninc.
Coachella, California—I’ve grown up in a family full of veterans. My cousin served as a tank commander for the United States National Guard, and two of my other cousins both served in the United States Army. Each of my cousins was willing to risk their life in order to protect our most basic freedoms. They regularly spent long periods of time away from home. Months, sometimes even a year, would pass before I could see them again.
But the ultimate sacrifice came when my cousin, U.S. Army SPC Alberto Garcia, Jr., died during Operation Iraqi Freedom because of an IED in March 2007, mere days after his birthday
I hold the upmost respect and appreciation for our armed forces. They have risked their lives, and they will continue to risk their lives in order to protect our most basic freedoms. They serve at their own risk, and above all, they are volunteers.
Each and every veteran should be honored for the sacrifices they make in order for us to continue to enjoy these freedoms that we so often take for granted.
Many businesses offer discounts for veterans on Veterans Day, and festivities are being held around the United States. But honoring the men and women who have served our country should go far beyond offering them a 15% discount at a local eatery. The appreciation and celebration of our nation’s armed forces should extend past just one day a year.
President John F. Kennedy said in a 1963 proclamation, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” This is how we should really honor our veterans, by not just honoring them on Veterans Day, but by showing our utmost gratitude and appreciation for them every day.
If our veterans were never willing to make the ultimate sacrifice and serve this country, we would not have such a day to pay tribute to the freedoms they have protected.
We must do more than put on a parade or give a free meal to any man or woman of the armed forces.
We must share our gratitude in ways that extend beyond a discount.
It is the responsibility of us, as American’s, to teach the generations to come of the sacrifices veterans have made so that we may live freely. But freedom is never free. It comes with a price — the price being my cousin’s life, a life that he was willing to give so that we could continue to enjoy our liberties.
Freedom should never be taken for granted.
On this Veterans Day, I am thankful for my family members who have volunteered so willingly and passionately to protect this country no matter the cost. On this day, I remember my cousin, Albert, who so willingly died at a young age so that I could enjoy freedoms, like the opportunity to write this article, and so that I could continue to live the life I do every day.
On this day, I am thankful for every single veteran, living and deceased, for blessing me with such freedom that can never be taken for granted.