What Veterans Should Remember

Occasionally, when people find out that I’m an Army veteran, they will thank me for my service.  I always thank people for their kindness, but assure them that at least for me, no thanks are necessary.  Many people view military service as a sacrifice, but I do not.  There were hardships, and I underwent all of the same difficulties as most everyone else, but I have always considered that I got much more than I gave.  In the long march of history from our nation’s founding until now, my own role was insignificant, but I took from that service many lessons that have served me in all the years since, and one of those lessons has been that it had been my privilege to serve.  Rather than you thanking me, I should be thanking you.  The opportunity to wear my nation’s uniform in defending her against our enemies was the most important experience in my life.  Despite hardships, I wouldn’t trade it for the world, and for that, I would like to thank you, the American people.

When I entered service, I was first a “No-Go.” That’s what they called we National Guardsmen who went to Basic Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.  Less than two years into that service, I decided to go on active duty, and enlisted in the Army.  I had an opportunity to pick up a new MOS(Military Occupational Specialty) with that enlistment, and so I stayed in the same general field, but switched to something a little different and a bit more specialized.  As it turned out, in the units to which I would be assigned with my new MOS, the older secondary would always be complementary and useful. This permitted me to develop my skills in a broader range of uses, and this aided my ability to move up, lead, and direct people from the earliest time in my active duty service.

My service also resulted in my being packed off to Germany.  I had a great opportunity to see Europe, and learn about the  cultures there.  As many of you now know, my wife is German, and our child was born there.  On the morning I arrived in Germany, a car-bomb exploded as I exited the terminal at Rhein-Main Air Base.  We lost more of our brothers that day.  I spent my first night in Germany on guard duty around the perimeter of the scene.  The incident delayed every low-ranking person’s processing into theater by one day, and it re-shuffled assignments.  Rather than going to Augsburg, I would go to Ansbach.  Since this was the town in which I would ultimately meet my wife, it turned out that even an act of terror by leftist thugs, punctuating my arrival in Germany, helped to establish the course of my life.  This taught me that even when the best-laid plans are scrapped due to circumstance, still you can exercise initiative in the eventual outcome, and that sometimes, you just happen to get lucky if you’re prepared to notice it.

I served with amazing people.  There were people from the country, suburbia, and the inner cities.  They came from rich, poor, and middle-class families.  They were as diverse as our nation, but when we were in the field, we were unified in purpose.  It really was amazing to see that people arriving from every possible subset of Americana could be so thoroughly assimilated into one culture, with singular focus, and it was this lesson that has always provided me hope for the future of our nation: When engaged in a shared mission, each exercising his own efforts within his particular specialty, all of our superficial differences faded from view, irrelevant to that purpose for which we had been assembled.

One of the worries I’ve had in the last decade or so is coming to pass, and it’s this:  Our nation loses track of our history because we fail to teach it.  I entered service when Ronald Reagan was the Commander-in-Chief, and the Soviet Union was the biggest, baddest bully on the block.  How many of you would be shocked to learn that in the history texts of your schools, the entirety of the so-called “Cold War” is barely more than a foot-note, and that the Soviet Union is barely mentioned, it’s crimes against humanity ignored, and that the pervasive stench of communist evil has been sanitized out of existence?  Sure, people like me would have taught their own children, but even at that, how much have they retained?  We wonder how it is that we can be marching our nation toward that statist cliff, having defeated such a foe less than two decades ago. I’ll tell you:  As a nation, we have forgotten what it was against which we had been fighting.  Worse, too many of us have failed to teach subsequent generations what our purpose had been.

If you wish to thank a veteran, one ought to know the context of his service, but for so many these days, that context seems lost.  To my fellow veterans, I would urge you to remind them, not as a rebuke, but as a lesson born of your love for the country you had served, and still serve.  There shouldn’t be a child born in America who doesn’t learn the history of despotism that we have risen to combat, defeat, and oppose, and it isn’t merely the tyrants we should remember, but also their philosophies and how they came to be.  If we veterans won’t teach these lessons, it seems that nobody else will, so I urge my fellow veterans to reach out in their communities, particularly to the young, that all we had learned in our various conflicts, hot or cold, is never forgotten.  Our military service may have ended, but our oath does not conclude with the issuance of a DD214.  What our service should have taught us is that the oath we first uttered as young men and women extends from that moment to the last moments of our lives.  The fraternal fellowship we have shared is honored best when we remember that solemn promise in all our days, thankful that we had been permitted to serve the nation we so dearly love.

Many good men and women have given far more in their service than had I, and naturally, I witnessed some of this.  It’s why I shy from the thanks that so many gracious people offer for my service, because in truth, I was of small consequence to the matter at hand, yet there were those who gave so much more, and in so many sad cases, all they had.  Let us remember their purpose, and the missions for which they served.  Let us teach our children and their children the meaning of their deeds, and the extent to which our nation’s prosperity has been built upon their honorable service. Let us lead the way in remembering them.  It is in their honored memory that we should all give thanks.  It is in their names that we must accept thanks, and it is to them that we owe the duty to remember always that oath and teach our young of their deeds.

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