By Graham Glover –
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them,”
– John F. Kennedy.
Yesterday our nation celebrated Veterans Day. Here in Columbus, GA the streets, shops, and restaurants were packed, with much of Ft. Benning and most local schools closed for the day. Once again, commercials lauding our veterans littered the airwaves. Facebook posts giving thanks for those who have and are currently serving in the Armed Forces populated my news feed. Businesses graciously fed veterans for free and gave discounts over and above what they usually do. All across our land, veterans were highlighted for the work they do for our nation.
But giving thanks and expressing gratitude for the men and women who serve is hardly enough. Our veterans deserve much more than a slap on the back, a free meal, and a sentimental Facebook post with pictures of your family members and friends who have worn the uniform. Our veterans are not simply a reason for another Hallmark moment. What our veterans deserve is the unbounded loyalty of every American citizen. This loyalty should know few boundaries. Outside your faith and your family, it should be the highest loyalty you give. Why such intense devotion? Because without our military and the veterans that serve it, the United States would be no more.
Strong words, I know. But they are unequivocally true. And it’s time that such a sentiment found its place into our public rhetoric and policy.
Am I suggesting that Americans don’t appreciate our veterans? Of course not. Gone are the days when service members are ridiculed or disparaged. With sincere hearts, our citizens regularly thank our veterans. To the best of their ability, they showcase their service and call attention to their deeds. But our veterans deserve better. They deserve more than words and gestures. Quite frankly, they deserve everything our collective will can offer. They deserve to be treated as the greatest heroes our nation knows. More than athletes, actors, politicians, and businessmen – even more than teachers and other selfless servants – our veterans deserve to be put on the highest of pedestals. For the vocation of these men and women is centered on one primary mission – to keep our nation safe and if called upon, to destroy those who would threaten our liberty. The world has never known a more lethal force than the American military and I think, a more just one. Without them, what you and I and the rest of the world knows to be freedom would be not only be threatened, it would cease to exist. And you wonder why I think our veterans deserve our complete loyalty…They define loyalty. They are the very embodiment of the term.
My friend and former Army colleague, SSG Nick Lanier, offers several ways one can show their appreciation to veterans (read article here). In addition to being a fantastic political scientist, Nick is spot on in his suggestions. But I’d like to take his proposals and step them up a notch. Because unlike every other vocation (with the possible exception of our law enforcement officials), those in our military are asked to risk their life, not for themselves, but for the preservation of our Union.
So, when Congress puts together its budget, the military and our veterans should be the very first thing they allocate funds towards. They should take care of them before all others. No expense should be spared. Our active duty personnel deserve the best equipment and manpower money can buy. Our veterans deserve every bit of support they need. Our lawmakers should set the stage by putting our veterans in the place they belong – at the very top of the fiscal food chain.
Military service has many benefits: health care, education, tax breaks, etc. But these benefits mean nothing if the nation is not personally invested in seeing our veterans taken care of, both while on active duty and afterwards. It should be a crime for any veteran to go without a home, a job, etc. Is this wishful thinking? Perhaps. But we’ll never know if we don’t try. Together, our government and our communities can ensure that our true heroes are never without.
Veterans Day happens once a year. I wonder, why only once a year? Are the preservers of our great nation only worthy to be recognized 1 day out of 365? Step it up people! Put your veterans’ front and center as often as you can. And then do it again. And again. You cannot overdo this. Our veterans cannot be extolled too much. Remember, it is their vocation that allows every other vocation to exist. Why then should they not be treated as the giants they truly are?
Some might suggest I’m making our service members out to be god-like. Obviously this is not the case. Our veterans do not forgive us or offer us eternal life. But they are, secularly speaking, our saviors on this side of the eschaton. They are the ones who keep us safe, who keep our enemies at bay, and who advance the cause of freedom in a world tinkering on the edge of tyranny. I can think of no one else who deserves our loyalty like a veteran. Nobody else does what they do. Nothing compares to an American veteran. Nothing.