Today is Veteran’s Day. It is a day when we honor the heroes both past and present who have offered the ultimate sacrifice for love of country.
I grew up in a household where pacifism was promoted by our church. My father was a conscientious objector during World War II as were his brothers and most of the young men in his church community. They all did alternative service of some sort which means they served…they just didn’t take up arms or go into battle.
I believe that being a conscientious objector was a decision that my father struggled with over the course of his life. I heard him at different times wonder out loud if he had made the right decision. Knowing him as the peace loving man that he was, I believe he did make the right decision for him, but at the same time, all of my uncles on my mother’s side of our family served in the armed forces. One was in the Navy, one joined the Army, another signed up with the Air Force and yet the fourth became a Marine.
We live in a world where we need to have individuals–men and women–who are willing to join the service in order to protect our country from its enemies. I am grateful to each and every one. We have a problem, however, in that we often neglect our veterans once they get home. We pay lip service, certainly, and we offer our thanks on special days like today, but too many of them are suffering from PTSD and not getting the help they need. Too many of them are coming home missing limbs or with serious brain injuries from which there is no real recovery.
I accept on a practical level that we need our Armed Services. We sometimes need to protect ourselves and we need to stamp out to the extent that we can the aggression of those who are simply dictators. Those individuals must be stopped. Having said that, I want to make sure that we acknowledge as a country that merely paying lip service to those who have given up everything for the opportunity to serve their country isn’t enough. We need to provide the support and services that they need when they return for as long as it takes to help them get back to a “regular” life.
I would like to take this opportunity to extend my own gratitude to those who have served. Our country could not continue to be the free democracy that it is without your dedication, your commitment to the ideal and your service on the ground. Thank you. And Happy Veteran’s Day.