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Veteran's Day: The cost of freedom

Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Robert Hudson, former Vietnam prisoner of war, speaks at the September 2008 opening ceremony for the annual POW/MIA 24-hour run at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.

Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Robert Hudson, former Vietnam prisoner of war, speaks at the September 2008 opening ceremony for the annual POW/MIA 24-hour run at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.

Col. Robert Hudson, right, speaks with an Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center member following his speech at the September 2008 opening ceremony for the annual POW/MIA 24-hour run at Kirtland AFB, N.M.

Col. Robert Hudson, right, speaks with an Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center member following his speech at the September 2008 opening ceremony for the annual POW/MIA 24-hour run at Kirtland AFB, N.M.

Col. Robert Campbell, Jr., Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center Detachment 3 Commander, carries the POW/MIA flag on the inaugural lap of the annual POW/MIA 24-hour run held each September at Kirtland AFB, N.M.

Col. Robert Campbell, Jr., Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center Detachment 3 Commander, carries the POW/MIA flag on the inaugural lap of the annual POW/MIA 24-hour run held each September at Kirtland AFB, N.M.

Kirtland AFB, N.M. -- When the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center held the sixth Annual POW/MIA Run in September to honor all current and former prisoners of war and Americans still listed as missing in action, the big story that particular day was the run. However, the real story to remember from that day is the story of the sacrifice our men and women serving at home and abroad make day in day out. 

Days such as POW/MIA Day, Veterans Day, Armed Forces Day, and others like them are extremely important, but it takes more than just these special observances to pay tribute to our service members. Our freedom comes at a cost and soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen serve and fight everyday to keep this American privilege. No matter what day it is we can always take time to remember their sacrifices for our freedom. 

During the AFOTEC POW/MIA Run, I had the opportunity to interview someone who understands this sacrifice better than most. Col. Robert M. Hudson is a retired Air Force B-52D pilot. He was shot down with his aircrew in Vietnam on December 26, 1972. He was a "guest" in the infamous Hanoi Hilton for six weeks before his release in Operation Homecoming on February 12, 1973. 

It was the second year that Colonel Hudson spoke at the annual run's opening ceremonies. His comments reminded everyone present that day of how our service men and women, past and present, do not take days off. Freedom comes at a cost and everyday it is being paid for. 

"Americans should never forget the deeds of those who have gone before," said Colonel Hudson. "This is a great country with a rich and diverse background. It grew to where it is today on the backs of millions of those who served and continue to serve to keep us free." 

According to Colonel Hudson, "The freedom we enjoy every day as we live our lives comes at a great price that many of us will never fully understand. I remember that some fellow POWs scratched some words on the wall of our cell that I will never forget. They wrote, 'Freedom has a taste to those who fight and almost die that the protected shall never know.' 

"It is our military family members that truly understand the price of freedom," said Colonel Hudson. "Especially when they see a commander and chaplain walking up their driveway to tell them their loved one is not coming home." 

I had a unique opportunity to talk with someone who has done some heavy lifting for my freedoms and I have a deeper appreciation of the magnitude of the work our service members do for our freedoms. We should take advantage of special observance days like the upcoming Veterans Day to pay tribute to those who have served and continue to serve to allow us this great honor. However, even more importantly, Colonel Hudson's words remind us that these sacrifices made for us cannot be forgotten. 

(Calum Murray is a freshman at the University of New Mexico working on a degree in journalism. He is part of the AFOTEC Intern Development Program that offers UNM students an opportunity to work in their degree area gaining experience in their field of study as well as in a military and government environment. He works with AFOTEC's Public Affairs Office.)