November 11 is Veterans Day in the United States. Originally called Armistice Day, the first observance was after the end of World War I on November 11, 1919 to acknowledge the contributions of World War I veterans. President Woodrow Wilson, in an address to the nation, reflected on his “…solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service, and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of nations.”
In 1945, the observance was expanded to celebrate the contributions of all military veterans to the freedom of our country, and not just those who served in World War I, and in 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the legislation to make Veterans Day a federal holiday.
Veterans Day is deeply meaningful to me, and not just because, in the words of my Texas Aggie comrades in arms, “I are one,” but because I believe in my bones and in my soul that service to the nation is an essential part of citizenship. Military service is not everyone’s cup of tea (even among us tea sippers), but I think that those who choose to serve their country as military officers, NCOs, and enlisted men and women exemplify the highest standards of selfless dedication and commitment. They don’t always intend to at the outset, but it’s not possible to spend extended time in a military environment without embracing the values that make both our military and our country great.
No military professional seeks war; we, after all, are the ones who must bear the burden of bleeding and dying in preparation for and execution of armed conflict. However, no military professional ever runs from his or her duty if called; they’re just not made that way. Whether it’s the unshakable commitment to the guy or girl who has your back in a firefight, the unwillingness to let your unit or your team down, or the sense of responsibility to “…support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” our soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen display loyalty, excellence, perseverance, and honor when called to duty in service to our country.
Our country is in uproar right now. However, let’s put it in context – the rule of law has not failed us, and there is a peaceful transfer of national power underway between two opposed views of how life should be. There are no tanks in the streets; there are no public executions for seditious beliefs; there is not a coup underway. The defining principles embodied in our Constitution are perhaps slightly battered, but they can take it, and they remain strong. In my belief, America is still the beacon on the hill, and the sun will still rise tomorrow. However, if that changes, you can be sure that those who have sworn to support and defend the American way of life will respond to the call, as they always have.
I no longer serve – my various parts don’t work that well because of my prior military service. It was my choice and it’s just a factual statement, not a whine. I’m grateful to be a veteran, and I’m grateful to all the people I served with, and all those who watch, wait, bleed, and die today. Thank you all – you carry what is best in America in your hearts and hands. And when you’re called to duty, may God show mercy to whoever made it necessary – they’re going to need it.