My grandfather served in WWII. He didn't speak often of his service, but I know he was proud of what he did for his beliefs and the needs of our country. My father-in-law served during Vietnam and I never hear him talk about that. I've had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of veterans over the years from WWII to Korea to Vietnam to various operations during the Cold War to Desert Shield/Storm to Enduring Freedom and even events I didn't include in this list. I have personal friends who have seen things on the other side of the world that I would never even want to imagine. Some are outspoken about their service and some are more reserved. Sometimes, I'm surprised to learn from a person that they served. I'm gonna use words like "they" and "them" many times in this piece because I never served in the military and they did or do.
Every eighteen year old makes the choice after graduation. For some, it makes the most sense to serve before college or career because there are some decent programs available. Some have a sense of duty to their country, family heritage, or conscience. No matter why someone chooses to serve in the armed forces, it is honorable in a way that is hard to describe. It's honorable because whether they fight in a war or not, they are ready to. See, the military is a powerful institution that trains its men and women to be disciplined, resourceful, and loyal- and, sadly, to be ready to endure and enact unspeakable harm. We need a military because we live in a world that is still infected with evil. And when they take that oath, they are choosing something that I never had to choose. They are choosing the country, this country, first.
I know we have lots to disagree about in today's day and age. It seems that's all we do now is argue. We can do that because Germany and Japan didn't win WWII. We can have the freedom we still have because the American military has been serving throughout the world to keep the fight over there and try to establish freedom and human dignity everywhere. We even have the right to disagree about that. Some people think we should only worry about this country and bring our troops home. Some people think we should police the entire world. No matter what you think, I hope we can all remember to treat our veterans with honor and respect. I hope we never ever get as confused as the country was during Vietnam. I hope no matter who is in office and what the military is doing, we will remember to honor those who serve. I hope, no matter what you think about our flag, our national anthem, and other symbols of our country, you'll understand that someone who wore that flag on their shoulder might not like to see it disrespected.
They, from the first shot at Lexington and Concord to now, have made a choice to serve and protect this country. Not just freedom and democracy, but these United States of America. They are a group comprised of individuals. Some like to talk about their service, some don't. Some are proud and some are haunted by sixty year old memories. Some will tell you they didn't do much and some will tell you more than they should. Some appreciate being thanked for their service, some do not. ALL of them deserve our respect.
On this Veterans Day, I hope we can unite as a country and show thanks to our service men and women no matter when or how they served. For a minute, let's take down the flags that are anything but the American flag. Just for today, let's stop arguing about shots and masks. For today, let's not worry about whether Christmas season starts too early, the price of gas, or what Aaron Rodgers thinks about anything. For today, let's enjoy the freedom and protection that has been, is, and will be provided by the American military. They deserve our affection and respect- each and every one of them.
Thank you to all who have served. Thank you to the parents, siblings, spouses, and children of those who have served. Know that anytime you are at a show of mine, your first beer is on me. Know that anytime you need a listening ear or a friendly face, all you have to do is call. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for protecting this country from the evils in the world. Thank you for doing your duty. Thank you for not slapping us when we argue about dumb stuff that you fought for our right to argue about.
God bless you all and God bless the United States of America!