When we thank veterans for their service on Veterans Day and other occasions, we often say they fought for our freedom. While there is truth in this statement, the shorthand doesn’t tell the whole story.
I would say that we should thank veterans for protecting our people and our country, and the ideals it represents. For instance, when our soldiers fought Nazi Germany in World War II, it was a struggle to ensure that our constitutional democracy would survive, along with the rights and protections it affords. In defeating the Hitler’s evil agenda, we were preventing the spread of a violent totalitarian regime and ensuring our system could continue to thrive.
I like the song “Chicken Fried” by the Zach Brown Band, but the line “Salute the ones who died, who gave their lives so we don’t sacrifice” seems to flow from the idea that veterans served for our freedom, including perhaps a freedom from responsibility.
True, veterans volunteering to serve our country means that most of us don’t need to put our lives on the line through military service. But we all have a responsibility to do our part to protect that constitutional democracy that our veterans fought to preserve. I would say we best honor our veterans by re-committing ourselves to do what we can to help our communities and help our nation live up to its democratic ideals.
As many others have suggested, an expansion of national service could be a powerful way to uphold the legacy of our veterans. Such an expansion could include military service, the Peace Corps and domestic service like AmeriCorps. The way troops from all racial and ethnic backgrounds work together toward common goals in the military is one important long-term benefit of military service. More of that, through military and civilian service, could certainly be helpful in these divisive times.
Let us thank our veterans through our words and deeds.