If you hang around any group long enough you tend to learn all the various idiosyncrasies of the people involved. Over the years my beloved family of radio co-workers have developed an ongoing joke about what a contrarian I am. This is a well-earned designation. The running joke is typically punctuated with a line everyone in the office knows by now.

“Hey Matt? You seen The Blind Side??”

Let me explain.

Years ago, Valerie Vining, my good friend and co-host on Talk 99.5, came to work on a Monday morning in her usual good mood. Before getting to our normal pleasantries regarding the weekend she exclaimed …” Matt! You have to see The Blind Side! It’s such a good movie!”

She went on to talk about how she went to see it and how wonderful it was and how much I would love it and what a great plot it had and how much I liked Sandra Bullock anyway and I should take my wife on a date night and I just HAD to see it!!

“You HAVE TO GO!”, she said.

That was 2009.

I’ve never seen The Blind Side.

You see, it seems the best way to get me NOT to do something is to tell me I HAVE to do something. I do not know why it is the case … but it is true. If your sentence starts with “Matt you HAVE to …” it really doesn’t matter what your next words happen to be. My subconscious mind has already begun scheming how to prove you wrong. I do not know why my brain acts in this manner. I cannot help it. I like to refer to this as my LIBERTY streak. Everyone else says it’s my stubborn, ornery goat streak.

They are probably right.

It’s with this story in mind that I ask you a question.

Have you been to the Birmingham Veteran’s Day parade?

It’s ok if you haven’t. You don’t have to go.

It is just a jewel in the crown of the state of Alabama. The longest running Veteran’s Day parade in America, as a matter of fact. This is thanks to the hard work of Raymond Weeks …. now known as the father of Veteran’s Day.

Mr. Weeks was born in Columbus, GA, but lived the majority of his life in Birmingham. Although in his 30’s at the time, he enlisted for World War II in 1942 and was honorably discharged in 1945.

Originally, November 11th was declared Armistice Day as a commemoration of those who died in World War I. In subsequent years, the day was more a ceremony of peace across the globe rather than a remembrance of those who died in the war. In 1926, Congress declared November 11 as Armistice Day calling it “a day … to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations”.

Raymond Weeks changed all that.

He organized for a “National Veteran’s Day” and held the first such parade in 1947 in the Magic City. He strongly believed ALL veterans should be recognized for their bravery and service to their country, not just those who died in service, as acknowledged by Memorial Day. He tirelessly lobbied the White House and Congress for a change. After eight years of hard work, President Eisenhower signed into law Congressional legislation officially changing the name of the day and commemorating the bravery of all of America’s service members. It all began right in our backyard.

It’s this Thursday. But … you don’t have to go.

You don’t have to go and see our servicemen who still remain from World War II … the precious few we have left.

You don’t have to go and salute the men who served in Korea … America’s Forgotten War.

You don’t have to go and honor those who came home from Vietnam, only to find a bitter, angry and spiteful country. You don’t have to welcome them home now … so many years later.

You don’t have to say hello to our fine men and women who served us so well in Iraq and Afghanistan.

You don’t have to watch, as fighting men from days gone by, now old and in wheelchairs, push themselves up out of those chairs by sheer force of will to stand - determined, proud and patriotic - as they salute our American flag. You don’t have to cry out of love for them.

You don’t have to see our young, fresh-eyed boys and girls, marching for ROTC and various schools and organizations, as the next generation of patriots who protect our freedom and liberty.

You don’t have to stand in downtown Birmingham and remind yourself that freedom comes from hard work and sacrifice and service.

You don’t have to remember that, despite all the drivel from talking heads on TV and naysayers in the ‘woke’ left, America survives as the greatest country ever devised by man.

You don’t have to remind yourself what a blessing it is to be born in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

You don’t have to thank a serviceman or servicewoman. You don’t have to shake their hand.

And you don’t have to realize that it all started right here in little old Birmingham, Alabama, thanks to Raymond Weeks.

You don’t have to do any of these things. But if you do … the parade starts at 1:30 p.m. downtown.

I might not see you there.

Matt Murphy is co-host of ‘Matt and Val’, heard in Alabama each weekday morning from 6-10 on Talk 99.5. Everywhere at Talk995.com His column appears every Tuesday and Friday in 1819 News. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com