Veterans Day

Today is Veterans Day in the United States which, thanks to our presence throughout the world, makes it Veterans Day in every country where our service personnel are stationed.  From here to Iraq to Afghanistan to Germany, American citizens take this day to observe, reflect, and show thanks for the job our military does to preserve our freedoms.

The military has changed since Veterans Day was first made official in 1954.  Technology has taken much of the lead in how we conduct our military affairs.  We employ drones to perform reconnaissance and strikes on distant targets.  We use satellite data instead of live scouts on the ground.  We employ a wide array of computer-based innovations to fight terror and oppression on every front.  Still, it remains that the most valuable resource our military possesses is the collective group of brave men that not only operate and develop these technologies, but who also use them in the neverending fight against our enemies.

The military has changed in other ways, as well.  Such service to our country is no longer considered a premium job opportunity by many of the best and the brightest minds in the country, who now prefer more lucrative–and less risky–careers.  Whereas our military was once staffed with some of the greatest minds the country had to offer, the glamor once held by the armed forces has worn thin, replaced by the constant reminders on the 24-hour news channels of the grim realities of war.  While the top students leave school and pursue careers in computer science or business or law or medicine, the military draws many wanderers to its ranks, young adults who has previously lacked direction or ambition, who have perhaps failed to produce the results that would get them into the best schools or lined up for the best careers.  The military accepts the wild child, the shiftless teen, the wayward youth, and it transforms them into the most tested and effective fighting force the world has ever know.  It takes these young men and women and turns them into soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines through a process that leads them to find the direction inside themselves.  It takes the raw materials that years of television, video games, and the internet have given it, and it produces the best this country has to offer.

And so, on this somber occassion, while we confront enemies in two theaters of war and scattered throughout the world to our own doorstep, I praise the veterans and active duty members of the United States armed forces.  While some of us stay locked safe in our houses playing Call of Duty or Battlefield, you are on the front lines, risking your lives for the sake of everything we hold dear.  And today, and every day, we are grateful.

We say, in passing, that there are certain people we would take a bullet for.  Our children, sure.  Our family and friends.  It is wise to remember that the members of our military would take–and do take–a bullet for each of you.  Regardless of race or creed, religion or gender, each member of our military has made the commitment to take that bullet fired from an enemy’s gun for all of us, even if they don’t know our names.  They do so not necessarily out of love for us individually, but for love of our country and the people–all of us–who make it a place worth defending.

So, to all the veterans and active duty military personnel (including my brother and my father), have a safe, blessed day.

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About Lee Smiley

I write things. Maybe you'll read them.
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