I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for the military family reunion videos. I tear up every time. One of my most vivid memories is of my brother holding his six-week-old daughter for the first time. If for no other reason than the fact that they are separated from their family and friends in order to provide for our defense, we owe veterans and military members our thanks. But of course, they do more than just leave their homes. They put themselves in harms way so that their homes — our homes — might remain safe.
There is a tendency by a certain segment of the population to get a bit huffy on Veteran’s Day. They begrudge the attention and the “hero worship” as they dub it given to the men and women who stand in defense of our country. A hero denotes something extraordinary, and so yes, I grant you that military service alone doesn’t necessarily mean someone is a hero. But their ranks include some the most heroic people ever to walk the earth. And if you want to find a hero, you’ll certainly be more likely to find one among a group of vets than almost any other group of people I can think of.
But the percentage of heroes isn’t really the point of Veteran’s Day or honoring veterans in general. The reason that we honor our veterans is that they all said “Yes” when asked to stand in defense of their country and countrymen. We recognize their sacrifice — of leaving home and family, putting themselves in harms way, losing friends and sometimes limbs.
I also admire veterans because they have been through a crucible and come out stronger. If you look at organizations like Team Rubicon, you can see not only the skills that have been developed through their service but the character and passion that are channeled into their communities when they leave the service. For many veterans, their service gave them something extra — a something they pour back into their communities for all of our benefit.
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If they had just stepped up to a job whose inherent definition is “possibility of being killed or seriously injured,” that would be enough to say thank you.
If they had just pushed themselves to become the finest fighting force the world has ever known in defense of our country, that would be enough to say thank you.
If they had just served their time and then returned home to quietly build families, communities, and a country, that would be enough to say thank you.
But they’ve done all that and more. And so for all of these reasons, we owe veterans our gratitude and respect. So thank you. I can’t say it enough and the words are rather inadequate in comparison to all you’ve done, but thank you.