We know when it is Veteran’s Day as there are furniture and car sales using this day as a promotional excuse. We will also see more flags being displayed in the community. Likewise, it will be a time when people pay a little more attention to the role Veterans play in our country’s history. There will be more ‘words and prayers’ of thanks shared with Veterans. Then by next week it will have passed.
However, what needs to happen is that we, both as individuals and as a society, regularly take time to be intentional and deeply reflect on what being a Veteran means. Whenever this world needed an injustice to be corrected or curtailed, the American Solider has been asked to step forward. Without hesitation, American Soldiers have given of themselves to meet this “need” and answer this “ask.” That “give” is at a minimum a disruption in their lives, their families’ lives, and a sacrifice of time; at the extreme, that “give” can be their life.
Globally, not only have our Veterans protected our rights and freedoms, but they have also given humanitarian services and aid to those in need. In many instances, the U.S is the first on the scene during disasters to provide medical aid, food, and water. In just the past few years, military aircraft have air-dropped food into Ethiopia, helicoptered aid into remote villages in Sudan, rescued flood victims in Bangladesh, and delivered medical teams to hundreds of major and minor disasters.
Even though no one formally asks, Veterans continue to give back after their tour of duty; they themselves see the need and act. There is an inner compass that motivates them to reach out with a helping hand, to do more for their communities, for their workplaces, for the nation. Veterans, perhaps more than most Americans, get the meaning of the Latin phrase inscribed on our currency: e pluribus unum, “out of many, one.” Every individual in the military is part of a bigger team tasked with accomplishing a mission. The rules of society that make each of us different or important or privileged, no longer apply. Wealth and position count for nothing. Degrees and honors carry no weight. Ethnic background and religion bear no special advantage. Our Veterans should inspire us to see each other as members of the same team — a United States of America team — instead of as rivals incapable of seeing beyond our individual or tribal interests.
Compiling this blog, I discovered an interesting trend. From the 50’s to the late 80’s the percentage of Veterans in congress was over 50% and as high as 75%. Today that percentage is less than 20%. No one understands the spirit of national service better than a veteran. Veterans tend to be less polarizing in their political behavior and tend to focus much more heavily on the common good. This decrease of Veterans serving in congress has opened the door to a new kind of elected representative, “the professional politician” and is it a coincidence that this trend also coincides with the fall of public trust in Congress?
JFK summed it up in his inauguration speech of January 20, 1961, when he said – “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Those words were spoken over 60 years ago, and they still ring true today. We want our country or others to give for us. We need to give for others. Give of your life – the widow in the Gospels gave of her whole livelihood, not from her excess. Give because you should and not because you must. Give from a place of love. Give to receive, receive joy.
Marian Wright Edelman, a Children’s Activist, said: “Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.” Today, Lions Clubs and other service organizations, meet many needs by answering many asks. Lions Club’s give of their time, talents and treasures. These ‘gifts’ rarely make headlines and get very little social media exposure (they don’t go viral). But they need to be recognized. What gets recognized and praised, gets repeated. If we want major achievements, it starts with recognizing the little things and building on them. Let’s honor the small ‘gives.’
There is a saying that the only two defining forces which ever offered to die for you are the American soldier and Jesus Christ. One died for your freedom and the other for your eternal life. Jesus was called upon to fulfill a need in salvation history. Jesus’ Passion, Death and Resurrection are the culmination of God’s loving plan of salvation. A central theme through salvation history is sacrifice. In salvation history sacrifices served multiple purposes – they were acts of obedience, carried out as God commanded, and ultimately it was an act of love. To many Veterans, serving their country is also an act of love.
As Christians we are thankful that Christ gave his life for our salvation; as Americans we are thankful that Veterans gave of themselves for our freedom. Let’s be intentional role models for others to emulate. This country is strong today because of our Veteran’s sacrifices, it can become stronger tomorrow because of our sacrifices.
A simple goal we can all have, is to live our thriving lives in these United States and be intentional about doing something in return for our nation. That “something” is a call to sacrifice time, energy, skills, talents, and passion. To give to a diverse society that is bigger than ourselves and much more than the sum of its parts. The need is everywhere, the ask is omnipresent. It really comes down to who will give, who will serve another, who will love another. We have Veterans to thank for showing us the way. We need to follow their lead.