Veterans Day provides a special opportunity in our nation. It's a time for us to take a moment and thank the veterans of the United States Armed Forces and the service that they have offered in defense our nation and the American way of life.
As I sit here today, I find myself reflecting on the sacrifices that many of my friends and colleagues have made to serve our nation - time with their families, career opportunities, recreation, and even their own health and safety. Granted, it isn't always a dangerous way of life - many find successful careers in military service - but it's a lot to ask of anyone even so.
Unfortunately, veterans of foreign wars - like Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, and Iraq - often face criticism for their actions "over there." It's a reality that has garnered backlash by many and rightly so. I would encourage anyone who reads this post to remember that regardless of personal feelings about individual practice of American foreign policy, our servicemen deserve the highest respect for their defense of the American way of life.
That's an interesting expression isn't it? The American way of life. What does it really mean? Undoubtedly it has something to do with Freedom, but beyond that, it's a bit difficult to define.
In the early days of our nation, revolutionaries fought to free their families and nation from a tyrant that taxed them into poverty, without allowing them any representation. Later, our nation faced an existential crisis over states' rights and human slavery - resorting to a brutal war between brothers for the future of the nation. the United States of American shifted from a collection of free states into a unified nation - and firmly rejected the slavery of any human being as being immoral and totally unacceptable in America.
The 20th Century saw another series of wars that ravaged our world - and these wars propelled our nation to unprecedented heights - as the economic, military, and moral leader of the free world - and a strong opponent of the Communist threat of Eastern Europe. The various military engagements for the remainder of the century largely were proxy wars between our nation and the Soviet Union - as we fought to contain communism. The century closed to a new world - the fall of the Soviet Union, the rise of globalization and the genesis of today's technical revolution - America won. Freedom won.
Now, the 21st Century hits. We see a new rise of radicalism in response to American imperialism, "Western" promiscuity, and ideological reform in many religious and political groups. Today, we find ourselves facing a presidential election cycle that is almost unprecedented in the degree of cynicism and disinterest by the American people. I think that it is fair to say that, today, more than ever, it is important for us to take some time to remember what it means to be an American.
I recently watched the new Tom Hanks film, Bridge of Spies, and his character made a stunningly simple point on that subject, that I think is dead accurate:
"I'm Irish, you're German. But what makes us both Americans? It's just one thing...the Rulebook. We call it the Constitution. And we agree to the rules. And that's what makes us Americans."
In the end, the only point I would make this Veterans Day is - remember who we are as Americans. A large mess of people with different interests, passions, and ideas. But people who are united in our respect and love for our founding documents - the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
These documents - no matter how old or "out of date" they may seem, still shine as the one example of what it means to be an American. These documents are the reason that thousands upon thousands of American servicemen have sacrificed their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor at home and abroad.
So, yes, I hope we all thanked a veteran today for their service. But more than that, I hope we all take the time to consider what that service really means and resolved never again to underestimate their sacrifice in defense of our freedom as Americans.