I’ll be honest with you: I am completely against using our military abroad if we are not taking direct defensive action. I believe that most of the things that our military is engaged in at the moment have nothing to do with protecting the home front. However, this is all beside the point. What I believe and my political affiliations have nothing to do with it. Wednesday was Veteran’s Day, but it sure didn’t feel like it.
I live on a college campus. It’s its own little bubble of happiness and a carefree lifestyle that is so insulated from the outside world that it’s appalling sometimes. I was in class on Wednesday and something happened that shocked me. The class was ending and everyone was packing their bags up to leave. As we all did this, my professor mentioned that it was, in fact, Veteran’s Day and that we had a veteran of Afghanistan in our class. The guy sits at the front of the class and wears his hair high and tight. He even has a camo backpack that looks like a standard military issue and I had never put two and two together before this point. When my professor was done making his statement, I started to clap and stand up, only to be greeted by confused stares from the people around me and an awkward silence. The veteran began to stand up with the rest of the class and his eyes were searching for anything to grab onto. Everyone shuffled past him and put their computers away, then hurried out he door. He looked dejected. It was absolutely heartbreaking.
I don’t know why I didn’t immediately chase him down and tell him that I appreciated his service. The moment just hit me and I never really even thought that something like this could be possible. Growing up, I had always been told to respect the military and all the sacrifices that they made for my freedom. Even though I’ve started to doubt the military’s role in today’s world, and I would rather live in a world where militaries were used less often, I still have so much respect for someone who will leave home and everything they hold dear for months (sometimes years) on end to fight people on foreign soil that would see us all dead if they could. Men like that veteran in my class are the reason that we sleep safe at night, and nobody in that class saw it fit to give him a little gratitude on the one day of all days (if not every day) of the year when he should feel that from those around him.
And so, I write this letter. Not to my classmates, not to kids on college campuses, but to my generation. Don’t lose this. We’ve lost a lot already and we’re proving that we are not fit to be in charge in so many ways, but we can’t lose our patriotism. If we can’t learn to move past our differences, our political affiliations, the way that we feel about certain issues, etc. to just take a second and respect someone that has done us a service, whether we asked them to or not, then we are truly lost. Those of you that know me know that I am the first one to shrug off civil religion and the advancement of statism in the minds of the populace, but I will never lose respect for the men and women of our armed forces.
So everyone, please go out of your way to thank someone who has served or is currently serving this great nation. Even if you’ve known them forever, they’ve probably never heard you say those words: “thank you for your service.” Those are the words that they need to hear from each and every one of us. We may not agree with why they went to war or what they did while they were away, but that has nothing to do with the fact that they sacrificed so much for us who have given them so little. They truly deserve everything that we have to give them and more, and a lot of them get nothing when they return.
Thank a veteran. Never forget the sacrifices that have been made.