04/20/2012 05:30 pm ET | Updated Jun 20, 2012

America, the Beautiful

By Alex Lewis

Recently, I found myself in the presence of a survivor of Pearl Harbor. After reading the words on his hat which denoted his status, I could only imagine what he has endured for the sake of this great country.

Well groomed, he gave off an aura of power and determination many of us can merely strive for. I engaged in a brief discussion with him to learn more about his story, and came away with a stronger sense of patriotism. Although it's becoming more difficult to find veterans from older wars, their patriotic spirit can continue to live on through younger generations.

As a child, my grandparents were friends with an elderly man who served in the Navy during World War II. He served on a battleship in the Pacific. In 1944, his ship was sunk by the Japanese. He floated in the water for several days, clinging for dear life to a chunk of debris before being rescued by an American ship. Sadly, he died when I was only four.

However, the impact he has made on me since then is indescribable. At his core, Buddy was a fighter. Nothing kept him from doing the things he wanted or going to the places he wanted. He kept an American flag displayed at all times, and there is no doubt in my mind he would have done anything for this nation until the day he passed on.

Sadly, we don't generally commemorate the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor as much as we should. After all, December 7th only comes around once a year. We do celebrate other holidays such as Independence Day, but those simply fail to fully grasp the accomplishments and strife of those who have come before us. Launching fireworks, eating hot dogs, and enjoying outdoor music is fun, but do not forget the power these dates entail. I encourage you to take the time out of your day to thank a veteran if you run into one during your daily routine. Their impact on us is something I don't think I will be able to fully appreciate. I can give it my all, though.

It's becoming increasingly difficult to meet World War II survivors, let alone survivors of Pearl Harbor, like I did. Hearing their life stories will inspire you to have a greater appreciation for all this country has to offer its citizens. When you have the pleasure of meeting a veteran of past engagements, take the time to thank them. They have been willing to give their all, and many have, to protect the freedoms afforded to us. Their impact upon you is seen all around us -- the ability to go as far and the freedom to do almost anything you desire -- enjoy it to the fullest. Celebrate freedom, celebrate America and most importantly, celebrate veterans.