There are a few moments in each of our lives that tend to stay with us forever. Time passes on, and memories fade, but those moments forever shift our perspectives, changing our entire lives. 

I’m only a senior in high school, but I’m absolutely certain that I’ve already experienced one of these defining moments. 

It was a balmy summer day when my mom and I took a quick trip to Washington, D.C. for July 4th. We wanted to soak up every moment in the city, so we did what any history-junkie tourists would do: we booked seats on a double-decker tour bus with a guide who had to force himself to sound a little enthusiastic. 

Despite this, it couldn’t have been more perfect. My mom and I got off the bus at every stop we could, snapping dozens of pictures to send to our family back home in Alabama.  

Within the first couple of hours, I’d managed to fall in love with the city. To see the beautiful U.S. Capitol Building, to drive past the White House, and to stand at Lincoln’s feet made my visit to D.C. everything I hoped it would be. Every stop on that bus tour gave me a growing sense of how special our nation is. 

But nothing could have prepared me for the next stop on our bus tour.  

Glancing over my shoulder, I saw the D.C. skyline slowly disappearing from view as we arrived in Arlington, Va. Within moments, the bus full of loud, laughing, and smiling tourists turned silent and very somber. To my left were thousands upon thousands of white marble headstones. 

Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place of over 400,000 veterans. Every single day, an average of 25 men and women are buried and honored for the ultimate sacrifice – their lives for our liberty.  

I had heard about this cemetery for as long as I could remember, but seeing it changed my life forever. It was all so very personal. Tears filled my eyes as I watched a beautiful young woman and her baby stand over one of the headstones, while an elderly man placed flowers alongside another. I felt as though I’d been punched in the gut. How could I have ever taken our freedom for granted? 

I left with a deeper reverence for our not-so-free freedom and those whose blood bought it.  

It’s been over a year since that visit, but I still think about those white marble headstones every single Sunday. That’s because every Sunday, like many of you, I get to go to church with my family and worship my Creator without fear. We have the freedom to do so because enough men and women decided that our freedom was valuable enough to risk – even give – their lives for. Never again will I take that for granted, and I am writing this article because I don’t want other young people to live blind to the sacrifices made on behalf of all of us.  

How, then, can we ensure this reverence for our liberty continues? How can we honor the memory of those who offered their lives for our land?

We can never repay the countless American heroes, but there is a way for us to honor their sacrifices and remember that our freedom isn’t free.   

One minute and 19 seconds is how long it takes to play the "Star-Spangled Banner." That’s how long it would take, at least once a week, for Alabama’s youth to honor our nation and those who died defending it. This would be a wonderful, practical way for patriotism to be restored. This short, simple remembrance of freedom could have a tremendous impact on Alabama’s youth … and I’m not alone in thinking this.  

“I definitely think it would be good to require the Star-Spangled Banner to be played at all of the schools. We need more of that kind of thing. We need to be teaching kids to remember what is most important.” - Bravon, 7th-grader at Ohatchee High School 

“What could it hurt to just take a minute out of our day to remember those who died for us?” - Analee, Senior at Pleasant Valley High School 

“It would be a really good thing for us to remember our freedom. I’m all for the Star-Spangled Banner being played. It’s not a distraction from our schoolwork at all. It’s us taking a minute to focus on what should be most important for everybody.” - Tori, Junior at Kate Duncan Smith DAR School 

State Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa) has pre-filed a bill to try and make this idea a reality for Alabama students. The bill would mandate every K-12 public school in the state of Alabama to either authorize the performance of or broadcast the "Star-Spangled Banner" at least once a week during school hours. If approved by lawmakers, this proposition would then become a constitutional amendment, subject to approval by the people of Alabama at the ballot box.  

There is no greater time than now to restore patriotism among Alabama’s youth and hopefully, change our state and nation for the better for years to come.  

Perhaps this moment could be a defining moment in Alabama’s history. 

Caroline Joyous is a 17-year-old social media influencer from Calhoun County.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News.

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