To every man and woman who has worn the uniform with honor in combat, thank you. On this Veteran’s Day, we rightfully honor your service and your sacrifice. And we should remember, not just today and on Memorial Day but every day, those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and those who came home wounded and with physical and mental scars that in too many cases will never fully heal.
Some people of conscience may struggle with supporting our military when they disagree with the missions assigned to it by our civilian leaders. The decision to send our troops in harms way should not be made lightly, and a healthy debate on such decisions is something I strongly support. Reasonable people may differ on the wisdom of most every military conflict not only in the last hundred years but from the first time that our cave dwelling ancestors picked up sticks and stones with which to force their will on others whom they did not like, whose property they coveted or who simply opposed their will. If we wish to point fingers at those who commit our forces to unwise wars, those fingers should be pointed at Washington D.C., not at out military whose job is not to question why but simply to do and die.
Idealized notions to the contrary by those who dwell in ivory towers, as I do, freedom is neither free nor the birthright of humanity in the state of nature. Freedom is bought and paid for every day by those willing to put on a uniform and fight–not with words but with ordinance–to gain and maintain it as directed by their civilian commanders. It is paid for in blood and sacrifice by those willing to fight for it against all enemies, foreign and domestic, who wage a perpetual battle to win the hearts and minds of the foolhardy by any means necessary.
For those like me who have lived under dictatorships, freedom is not an abstraction or something to be taken lightly. Words did not prevent the Nazi flag from flying over all of Europe. Our armed forces, and those of our allies, whose sacrifice is no less noteworthy, did. The swastika does not fly over the capitol, nor does the imperial flag of Japan. Russian is not our official language, and it is only our armed forces that may prevent Mandarin or Korean from becoming the official language in the future, or Sharia Law from replacing the U.S. Constitution. If history teaches us anything, it surely teaches us that.
Gratitude for honorable service should not be tied to one’s political philosophy or party affiliation. Democrats, Republicans, Liberals, Conservatives, Independents, Jews, Muslims, Christians, and members of every other faith have all bled alongside Atheists for our freedom. This Veterans Day, I hope you will join in a collective well-earned thanks for their service and sacrifice. And as the Holidays approach, regardless of faith or lack thereof, if it is within your means, please make a gift to a worthy, vetted charitable organization that looks after our veterans and their families. Think of it as a holiday gift for dear friends who are worthy of our support. Or, if you prefer, think of it as a self-imposed honor tax. And if you can’t find a few dollars in these tough economic times to share with those most worthy of our support, please at least share your gratitude for the service of our men and women in uniform when you see them at a bus station, airport, coffee shop or on the street. Look them in the eye, offer your hand and say “Thank you for your service.” Do this especially for those who wear their uniforms from times gone by on Veterans Day standing a little taller in proud remembrance of their service and personal sacrifice. It is the least we can do for those who have been and remain the guardians of our freedom.