In America, fall means football. Once the leaves start to turn, many of us make game time a priority, and we gather with friends and family to cheer on our favorite teams. Some participate in fantasy football leagues, and more avid fans don jerseys and face paint week after week.
This time of year also brings Veterans Day. And while there's nothing wrong with enjoying a few games on the weekends, we need to remember that without our veterans we probably wouldn't be watching football at all.
There are many places in the world today where lawlessness prevails and people live in fear. There, the average person doesn't enjoy the luxury of football or any other sport. They're too busy protecting themselves and their families. They must worry about being persecuted for saying something controversial or practicing an unapproved religion. They've seen children be used as pawns of war.
Thanks to the Americans who have worn our nation's uniform, the United States is not one of those places. We have freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. We have the freedom to worship the religion of our choice. As American men and women, we can choose our own leaders. Our sons and daughters can play soccer and baseball, participate in 4-H, or take ballet and piano lessons -- they are free to be kids.
Former South Dakota Gov. Joe Foss appreciated football. As the first commissioner of the American Football League, he pioneered the concept of the Super Bowl. Foss was also one of our state's most prominent war heroes. Gov. Foss received a Medal of Honor for serving in the Marine Corps during World War II as a leading fighter pilot.
Gov. Foss always kept things in perspective when he was working in football. He wrote in his autobiography, "When I was the age of these football players, we were playing games of life and death. People were getting killed." When disputes would arise in the League, Foss would remind those in disagreement "what a piddling thing a game was when compared to life and death."
This Veterans Day weekend I hope you'll have the chance to enjoy some football with your family and friends. But most of all, whether you're a football fan or not, I hope you'll take some time to reflect on the sacrifices our veterans have made for us and thank the people you know who have served.
Adrian Peterson, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers are well-known to many. Some idolize these sports stars, and consider them heroes. While they have certainly achieved great things through their talent and hard work, those who risk their lives to keep us free are the real heroes. And those real heroes deserve our gratitude and respect on Veterans Day.