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'Our freedom is not free': NASCAR driver Aric Almirola shares message with fans ahead of Memorial Day

The Tampa native was born on Eglin Air Force Base where his father served.
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NASCAR driver Aric Almirola is reflecting on his father's military service and the importance of honoring those who serve on more than just holidays marked to commemorate or thank members of our armed forces.

The Tampa native's family fled Cuba for Florida where his father served at Eglin Air Force Base. It's also where Almirola was born and grew up watching his dad put on his uniform every day to go to work.

In an interview with Fox News, he said, while he is lucky to still have his father, it "made me appreciate the sacrifice."

That's why this weekend's 600 Miles of Remembrance NASCAR race where drivers will honor fallen members of the U.S. military by carrying their names on their windshield hits closer to home for Almirola.

"This weekend for the 600 miles of remembrance, we're going to take this opportunity to remember the people that paid the ultimate sacrifice," he said.

His No.10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford will carry the name of Petty Officer Second Class (SEAL) Michael A. Monsoor who died in 2006 while serving in Iraq.

Monsoor died when he jumped on top of a grenade that was thrown onto the rooftop where he and other soldiers were positioned. In 2008, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush.

"He paid the ultimate sacrifice. Not only for them to stay alive but for our freedom. For me and you to get to do what we love to do and live in this great country it takes people with the selfless acts like Michael did in September of 2006," Almirola told Fox.

Monsoor's mom sent the NASCAR driver a note ahead of the race, sharing that her son loved anything with an engine and asked him to be sure to "put the pedal to the metal" in Monsoor's honor.

Almirola added that while he believes people understand all that the military does to keep us safe, that we should be sure to honor their sacrifice year-round and not just on holidays.

"I think it's equally important that we don't forget. That we don't just celebrate this on Memorial Day and on Veterans Day, that we really, you know, take with us throughout the course of the year that there are men and women fighting for our freedoms every single day," he told the outlet.

"Our freedom is not free, there are people that pay and pay heavily for that with their lives and so, I think it's just really important that we pay tribute to them and thank them for the sacrifice," Almirola added.

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