From Bunker Hill through the present day, America’s veterans have made tremendous sacrifices to preserve our nation and keep her people free. And so, on Veterans Day 2020, it’s fair to ask: How are we doing by our veterans?
Politically, we are a 50/50 nation, deeply divided. But we should be able to put aside our political differences and unite in supporting our veterans and treating them with respect and fairness.
We’d like to think that’s what we’ve always done. It isn’t.
November 11, 1969, comes to mind. Then as now, the divisions ran deep. And some observed Veteran’s Day by ransacking JOTC offices and burning flags. Anti-war activists hurled vile epithets at service members in uniform. The nightly news was dominated by reports of rioting, looting and protesting, as National Guard troops deployed on American streets to keep the peace. WithIn a few months, some radicals would split off to form the Weather Underground, conducting a national campaign of domestic terrorism to press for their desired “revolution.”
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The military was one of their targets. The group’s New York cell laid plans to bomb a noncommissioned officers dance at Fort Dix, N.J., hoping to kill or maim the attending soldiers, along with their wives and dates. This tragedy was averted only by accident: the bombers inadvertently blew themselves up while putting the finishing touches on the device.
Things are different in today’s America. For starters, there is no “hot” war on the horizon. And the nation’s tolerance of violence as a means of pushing for political change is waning.
Polls show that support for social justice protests declined significantly over the summer as the demonstrations morphed into rioting and violence, and it became evident that many of the protesters were bent radical political change, not “just” fairness and equality.
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Yes, some on the left indulged in kneejerk anti-military diatribes when the National Guard was called out to help protect lives and property. But those objections subsided, along with demands to “defund the police,” as most Americans realized it was wrong to demonize the public servants who were safeguarding our streets and ensuring equal opportunity under the law.
For the national elections, Americans went to the polls in unprecedented numbers, and while they might have voted for different candidates, their participation in the process argues for their belief, commitment and confidence in the constitutional process. Our insistence of ensuring “every legal vote is counted” is an affirmation for preserving a society of ordered liberty. Let’s hold on to that sentiment—and not make the guardians and protectors of our freedom the target for our political disagreements.
The foundation of America’s military remains selfless service to the nation. Individuals volunteer to serve us. Let’s honor and respect and their service, whether in peace or war, whether for one tour or over a long career. The honorable service of every veteran, no matter when or where they served deserves our reverence—not just on Veteran’s Day, but every day.
Indeed, many Americans are moved to go further: to serve those who have served them. There is no lack of veterans who deserve a better break, and there is no lack of organizations willing to help them.
If it is in your heart to help, it’s not hard to find a national or local group to get you started. One exemplary group serving veterans and their families is the Gary Sinise Foundation. If you’d like to explore other opportunities, The Philanthropy Roundtable is a great resource.
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Working with veterans is much more than a feel-good service. Helping veterans helps us as well. They are our entrepreneurs, community leaders, healers, educators, and pastors. What veterans in need want is a “hand up,” not a “hand out.” They are not victims or a new category of government dependents. They want to contributors to their communities, just like the way they served as part of a determined military team. Few give back more to communities than veterans.
So let us all reaffirm on Veteran’s Day that we can cast aside our political differences and meet our armed forces and veterans as they are, where they are. They are, after all, part of our great American family—individuals deserving of our love, honor and respect.