"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived." - Gen. George S. Patton
I was having a discussion the other day with someone who was asking me why we had two holidays for veterans, Memorial Day and Veteran's Day. The latter, I explained, was originally the observation of the end of World War I (the Great War, the War to End War) at "the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month".
I noted that while Memorial Day is a day to honor those who've fallen in service to our country, Veteran's Day is a day to honor any who've served in our armed forces. But it occurs to me that this is wrong.
We live in a nation that is free. We enjoy liberties that no other nation on earth possesses (regardless of what people like Michael Moore would like to portray). And yet those freedoms come at a price. In the words of John P. Curran (often misattributed to Thomas Jefferson), "The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance." People popularily paraphrase this as "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."
And while the attributions and direct quotation may not be wholly correct, the idea remains. But the oft-overlooked part of this statement, or at the very least misunderstood, is the word "eternal". Our military stands a watch over us and our freedoms. That watch is constant and eternal. As the misguided Col. Jessup in "A Few Good Men" nevertheless correctly exclaimed, "Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns."
This is a 24 by 7, 365 job. Our forefathers not only said this numerous times, they were prescient enough to acknowledge that what is guarded against is not always from without when they included in the military and civilian governmental oath, "I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic." They and their successors reaffirmed the necessity of being on guard against threats both military and political:
"God grants liberty only to those who love it, and are always ready to guard and defend it." - Daniel Webster
"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." - George Orwell
"Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government's purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding." - U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis
The fact is that the securing of liberties of which the Declaration of Independence speaks is a neverending task. And those who are charged with it deserve to be thanked and acknowledged not just one, not just two nor even three days a year but every single moment of every single day. They stand on that wall so that we, the protected, don't have to.
"For those that will fight for it, freedom has a flavor the protected shall never know." - L/Cpl Edwin L."Tim"Craft, B Co 3rd AT's Khe Sahn Combat Base, February 1968
When I see a vet, any vet, I walk up to them and thank them for their service not on our country's behalf, but on my behalf. Their job, their choice, their sacrifices enable me to live and remain free. This means not just our military, but those who serve our government. I may not always agree with them, but I appreciate that and honor their choice of career ever day. I take their role in our nation as seriously as I take my own.
As a citizen of the United States, though I've never formally taken the oath, it is my duty as well to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
This is what I do. What do you do?
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