We have parades and speeches. We attend memorial services. We watch reruns of war movies. We may even buy a veteran or a current member of our armed forces a beer.
Our annual celebration of Veteran’s Day is pretty predictable.
And when we are done, we feel good – about our military, and about ourselves for
honoring them each year.
Because parades and memorials and movies and small gifts really don’t have anything to do with honoring the sacrifice America’s veterans made. To actually honor the sacrifice we need to recognize, and contribute to, the reason for their service.
Let’s start with our first American veterans. They were standing against the
mightiest empire in their world in a fight that no one believed they could win.
There was no glory in Valley Forge. The soldiers who wintered there were starving, and freezing, and even bleeding. Observers at the time said that one could follow each sentry’s route by tracking his bloody footprints through the snow.
Those men didn’t know that they would win. They did know that the principles of
liberty they were fighting for were worth the sacrifice they were making. Even if that sacrifice was their very lives.
Those principles were embodied in the United States Constitution. And every
generation of America’s military has sworn to support and defend that Constitution so those principles remain intact. That means that our military pledges allegiance to a structure of government that guarantees the freedom of every American citizen.
And in the over 200 years of our existence, many of them have honored that pledge at the cost of their lives.
We are the citizens whose freedom they protect.
And when we do not value that freedom, we dishonor their gift.
In the election last week, voter turnout in Pennsylvania was 21%. The declared
winner was "voter apathy".
That is a slap in the face of every man or woman who has ever worn the uniform.
They stand in front of bullets to protect the rights of citizens who can’t be
bothered to show up to vote.
The same Constitution that they pledge to support and defend places the
responsibility for America’s government in the hands of America’s citizens. The
ballot box gives citizens the opportunity to completely change the makeup of the
United States House of Representatives every 2 years. It’s the ability to stage a revolution without firing a single shot.
Our Founders understood how truly terrible bloody revolutions would be. So they gave us a structure of government that enabled us to "revolt" without having to endure the horrors of war. And they gave us a military that was pledged to protect that structure.
They could do no more. Using the Constitution’s structure to protect our American freedoms is our job as American citizens.
This Veteran’s Day, let’s truly honor the men and women who have protected our
structure of freedom. Let’s resolve that we will do our part to support and defend the Constitution of the United States by becoming informed and active participants in every election. It’s the least that we can do in appreciation for their service.