Patriotism is usually at an all time high during the Fourth of July, as well it should. But shouldn’t we be celebrating this country and our great freedoms every day of the year?

We do live in the best, most beautiful country on earth, and the rights and privileges we enjoy are simply the envy of the world! There’s good reason why so many are willing to leave their own homes and risk their lives, just hoping to get the opportunity to live here. Just like our own ancestors, they want a chance to live in this land of freedom and promise.

But that freedom wasn’t free! There were, and are, men and women willing to defend those rights and die for our freedom.

Now take a moment and think about that last sentence. Someone you don’t even know (or perhaps someone you do), is willing to leave their own families, travel to remote locations, often serve under emotional and physical duress, who might not even agree with our government’s position in the conflict, fully-knowing they will probably be called upon to do crazy things, and could very well lose their life over it.

After having the privilege and pleasure of interviewing two of our own Veterans/heroes Val Jackson and Lloyd Laycook concerning their participation in Utah’s Honor Flight for this week’s paper, I am even more respectful of our Veteran’s service to the country, as well as each and every individual American!

As a journalist and newspaper owner, of course freedom of speech is something I hold very dear. I know that so many have fought and died for our rights as outlined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

But my heart and emotions were stirred when the men shared their stories; Lloyd with his piloting in the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, and Val’s working in a psychiatric ward after the absolute atrocities of World War II and the emotional trauma many of the servicemen experienced. They shared stories of strife, emotional and physical injury, and death of friends, as well as lifelong friendships and patriotic resolve. They also shared reflections of sorrow and of being homesick. And, they were just so young! It was very humbling to hear what they had been through.

My heart swells with pride to know our servicemen and women care that much, and are willing to die to protect our rights as Americans. Let’s be grateful to live in America, be kind to those wanting to come here, and most of all – thank a Veteran for the wonderful life we have!