Salute veterans all month long

Published 12:49 pm Thursday, November 13, 2008

This is Veterans’ Week. It is our annual time of the year to say thanks to all our men and women who have served in the United States Military.

We officially do the honors on Veterans Day November 11th. But I believe we should salute them all week and even all month long. We owe everything to veterans.

From the battle of Bunker Hill over two hundred years ago to the streets of Baghdad in the 21st century, men and women have continued to answer the call to serve our country. They voluntarily leave the comforts of civilian life behind to fill the ranks to keep us free.

So it is fitting that we say thanks to our veterans. I like many of the ways we do it here in Alabama.

For example, our Veterans’ Day festivities are recognized all across the country. We hold the largest Veterans Day parade in the country. It has been an annual event for over fifty years. All parents should take their children to see it in downtown Birmingham. It will make anyone proud.

I like the way so many of our churches recognize our veterans. I appreciate the special patriotic services they hold to applaud and encourage our men and women who have served.

I like the way our schools welcome veterans to visit and share their stories. Our children learn history through real people who were there rather than through words in textbooks.

Personally, I think every school child should be taught to salute veterans when they come to visit.

Whenever I discern that I am in the presence of a veteran, I shake their hand, give them my heartfelt thanks, and extend a crisp military salute.

Some people may think that a bit too silly, but I think that it is entirely fitting. How else can you demonstrate thanks to a person who has put their life on the line for your freedom?

Then too, I like the way some of our local restaurants extend complimentary free meals to veterans during November as their way of saying thanks. I would also like to see everyone take a vet to lunch during November. Pay for their meal and talk about their experiences.

Above all, I am touched by the way patriotic groups decorate local cemeteries with flags and flowers. This is a deeply personal way to experience true appreciation for veterans. When one plants a small flag on the grave of a veteran, it truly drives home the point that freedom is not free.

I am only scratching the surface. But these are some shining examples of the way Alabama honors veterans. They are our greatest treasure. Let’s never forget what they have done for us.