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Tuberville: Remembering our fallen heroes

On Christmas Day, 1952, Sgt. Arthur Hullett received the news that his 22-year-old brother Ervin had been killed in Korea. They had grown up in a close-knit family, as two of eight children. The news understandably came as a shock. He realized that he’d never see his brother again.

Both Hullett brothers had faced unimaginable challenges as part of their military service, suffering segregation and discrimination because of their race. Yet, they loved America and were proud to wear the uniform. Their belief that America is worth fighting for — and even worth dying for — led them to do heroic deeds in spite of all they had suffered.

Americans like the Hullett brothers are the reason our country remains the greatest in the world.

Like the Hulletts, many Alabamians have been willing to pay the high price of our freedom. Our state is home to more than 6,000 Gold Star family members who have empty seats at the dinner table and missing faces at special occasions.

It is only right and just that we share the stories of our fallen heroes to keep their memories alive and honor the families they left behind.

Alabama has memorials and monuments across the state to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. They represent countless stories of children who grew up without knowing their parents, spouses who had “happily ever after” cut short, and parents who hugged their children goodbye without knowing it was the last time.

Last week, I shared the story of the Hullett brothers with my colleagues on the floor of the United States Senate. I also shared two more stories of Alabama heroes that we would do well to think about this Memorial Day.

Sgt. Ricky Jones from Plantersville was the star running back at Dallas County High School, affectionately known as “Mojoe.” Sgt. Jones was killed in Afghanistan on Father’s Day 2009, leaving behind four children. Sgt. Jones’s sister Jasmine recalls him standing at her bedroom door to tell her goodbye after returning home to help their mom recover from surgery. She didn’t know that it was the last time she would see him.

I also told my fellow senators last week about Sgt. Jason Stegall, whose desire to join America’s armed forces began when he was just 10 years old. This fearless desire worried his mother, as it would worry any parent. Sgt. Stegall served with distinction, and he saved countless lives of fellow American soldiers in Iraq. Despite several close calls with death during combat, Sergeant Stegall planned to re-enlist. But sadly, his life was cut short by a mission-related illness. He left behind his teenage sweetheart Ashley, and three sons including Landon, who was just 10 months old at the time of his passing.

The Bible says, “Greater love has no man than that he’d lay down his life for a friend.” We may have never met Sergeants Hullett, Jones, and Stegall, but we live in peace and freedom because they were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for us. Their selflessness is an example to us all.

This Memorial Day, I hope that we remember that this isn’t another long weekend. It should be a somber reminder to pause and honor all of America’s fallen heroes and the Gold Star families they left behind.

May we live to ensure their efforts were not in vain.

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