Our republic and constitutional form of government have been an aberration in human history. The American experiment persists because patriots have stood ready to do rough things in defense of the ideals of self-governance.
Whether in the farmlands of Massachusetts against the redcoats or the fields of France against the Nazis, our nation would not exist – even in its currently troubled state – were it not for those who have served in the Armed Forces.
People often confuse and conflate Veterans Day and Memorial Day. The latter exists specifically to honor the fallen patriots who gave that last full measure of devotion to the American republic while in uniform. The former, though, recognizes especially the men and women who once wore our nation’s uniforms but have since returned to civilian life.
It is easier for some than others.
The things that have needed to be done to secure the blessings of liberty are not always pleasant. Thanks to modern medicine, many of our veterans’ deepest scars are not physically visible. But they are there.
Veterans Day often expresses itself as “thank a veteran!” That is well and good, and we should.
Yet, maybe we should also think about ensuring that our republic is one worthy of their sacrifice. Sure, you can say they were paid (even if poorly) or got an education or skill out of it. For a half-century, the military has been an all-volunteer force.
Our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines have served without an obligation beyond the contractual agreement they freely made.
Are we worth it? Is our republic one worth serving?
If we want our nation to survive, then we as citizens must be about the business of ensuring it is one for which men and women want to volunteer in its defense. Veterans Day should inspire us to consider the government and culture we ask men and women to defend.
And, of course, to thank those who have served.