Originally published Nov. 11, 2011
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Because we believe these things, and have been blessed as a powerful and prosperous nation for it, some have come to hate us.
Security is an illusory privilege that is kept alive by constant vigilance, both in the wars of history and the quiet skirmishes that our special ops wage without making headlines.
If you have a veteran in your household on Sunday, give him or her a heartfelt embrace and a word of thanks. If you have friends or neighbors who risked their lives for our freedom, shake their hands and let them know you appreciate them.
If you are a veteran, be proud of who you are, what you have done and the elite company in which you have served. Hold your head high. And know that your service has not been forgotten — on Veterans Day or any other day.
Despite many fancy speeches and well-intended words, we tend to take our freedom for granted. In times of prosperity and peace, we lapse into a lull of false security, as we did through much of the 1990s. In times of economic hardship, such as we have now, we focus so much on internal woes that we lose sight of external threats, even though our nation has been at war for nearly a decade. The battlefields are mostly far away and 9/11 is more than 10 years past.
But families do not forget. Children growing up without parents do not forget. Husbands and wives kept apart by long years of deployments have not forgotten. Neither the veterans scarred physically from explosions, bullets and exposure to the elements, nor those scarred mentally by the horrors of human brutality and the cruel loss of friends have forgotten.
And we must not forget.
We have not forgotten Afghanistan, Iraq, the Pentagon, the USS Cole, Khobar Towers, Mogadishu, Kuwait, Lebanon or countless other hidden warfronts in the age of terror.
We have not forgotten Grenada, Vietnam, Korea or the other places where democracy held the line against communism.
We have not forgotten the Pacific islands, North Africa, the Atlantic or Europe in World War II, where Americans faced down the dual threats of Japanese and Nazi imperialism.
Nor do we forget the long history of sacrifices of veterans long past on battlefields from Belleau Wood to San Juan Hill to Gettysburg to Veracruz to New Orleans to Ramsour’s Mill.
We are in their debt and cannot hope to even the score.
But if those brave Americans, living or dead, who have stood against tyranny in its many forms were to speak with one voice today, they would tell us to live in awe of our freedom, in gratitude for our liberty and in participation in our democracy.
If we do this, then we honor what they have done — on this day and all others.