The veterans float at Houston’s Homecoming celebration.

The Fourth of July came and went, and people all over gathered around grills and pools, maybe watched some fireworks.

However, there were some who didn’t have that luxury. They weren’t here to celebrate with their families because they are in a foreign land fighting for us to have the freedom to sit around and have the celebrations we’ve come to take for granted.

These brave men and women asked not what their country could do for them, but what they could do for their country, to paraphrase the late President John F. Kennedy. The least we can offer them is our respect and appreciation for their sacrifice.

Veteran’s Day is observed annually on Nov. 11. However, shouldn’t our active-duty military and our veterans be celebrated year-round? We have parades and programs, we revere them, but then what? They get pushed to the back burner while we idolize celebrities and squabble over trivia. This needs to change.

Some paid the ultimate price by giving their lives for our country. They will never again return home to see their families. These people laid down their very lives; they gave up all their tomorrows so we could have all ours. This nation exists today because of them, and they deserve our undying respect.

While we do honor veterans and the active-duty military around this time of year, it just doesn’t feel like it’s enough. Many see the Fourth of July as a day off of work, to lounge around eating hot dogs and watching explosives.

All the while, there are those who are the target of the explosives. They can’t just kick back by the pool and visit with their families. For them, there is no day off from work. For most of us, a really bad day at work may mean getting fired. For those locked in combat with our enemies, a bad day at work may mean coming home missing a limb or more, or mentally shattered forever, or in the worst case, in a casket.

According to data from the Department of Defense, as of March 31 of this year, Mississippi has 12,623 active duty military personnel. These numbers are from all branches.

While we do honor our veterans and active duty military personnel, there is always more that can be done. The old saying is true: “Freedom isn’t free.”

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