This week, we collectively pause as a nation to celebrate and commemorate our heroic fellow citizens who have served in the United States Military. Ronald Reagan once said that "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free." As we near our 235th year as a free and independent nation, those words ring out with more truth than ever, as there are still some in this world who wish to harm and impede our freedoms.
Through the years, America has seen some horrific battles. When called upon, we have witnessed leaders rise up by taking the burdens of war upon themselves, and fighting for their fellow countrymen. They fought to protect those alive during their respective eras. But they were also preserving a more timeless commodity: Liberty. Today, as every day, there are individuals living among us who have shown courage through their military service; some are actively serving as we speak. These men and women are truly a precious few; willing to put their lives on the line to protect the freedoms of others. They fight, in spirit, alongside those who won a revolution to give us those freedoms, and those who fought to uphold our beloved union.
Thanking a Vet, visiting a memorial, and flying a flag are all ways in which we show our endless pride and gratitude for those who have shown a willingness to die for us. But we can go even further than this. When we vote, when we speak out with challenges and ideas for our government, and when we hold our leaders accountable, we are active and engaged citizens. This active participation and passionate involvement in the democratic process pays the highest honor to those who fought to defend it.
According to the US Census Bureau, there are roughly 21.9 million military veterans living in the United States. In Nebraska, there are currently over 116,000 veterans; that's 11.3% of our state population. Let us remember that the commemoration of these current and former members of our Armed Forces extend far beyond November 11. They are Veterans every day, and America remains a Shining City on a Hill because of them. May God bless our veterans, and may God bless America.