Opinion

Veterans Day — A veteran’s viewpoint

I was asked to represent my American Legion Post and address the students at Kingston High School. Here is part of what I had to offer to them. The timing may appear a bit late, but the message is solid regardless of timing.

I am a veteran. I am supposed to address what Veterans Day is all about. I guess I am supposed to talk about “The Great War, Armistice Day and the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1919.” Well, you can learn that yourself with just a bit of time in the library or on the Internet. So, let’s talk about veterans as people.

You have probably seen the bumper stickers that tell you that you “owe something” to veterans or that you might want to “Hug a Veteran today.” Actually, you don’t owe us anything and we tend to get embarrassed when people hug us. Veterans don’t need parades or special days to make them feel proud. Don’t get me wrong. We love parades with marching bands, American flags, scout troops, American flags, antique jeeps and military trucks and American flags. Yes we really do like a good parade, but we don’t need them.

Every veteran took an oath when they began their tour of duty. That oath includes the words: “I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.”

Now, 53 years after I first pledged that oath, the words still thrill me as an American, for the trust and faith my country placed in me as a 17-year-old kid. It was an awesome burden.

Most veterans, even after their terms of service have long passed, remain faithful to that oath. You see, there is no termination date for the promise. In our lives, we try to honor and respect those who served before and after us. We try very hard to honor and respect the Constitution and the country they also pledged to defend. As veterans, we have a common bond of purpose and personal responsibility to each other and to our country. All veterans gave some. Some veterans gave all. Veterans carry with them the memories of comrades and friends who made the ultimate sacrifice for their fellow soldiers or sailors and for their country. We will not let them down.

Veterans do indeed deserve respect, not for who they are, but for what they represent — Americans who answered the call of their nation, without hesitation or reservation — Americans who willingly sacrificed their individual rights to protect those same rights for all others.

If you want to demonstrate honor and respect for a veteran, please do it by accepting the same burden of responsibility that each of them carries throughout their lives. Learn what our Constitution says by reading and study. Understand why our Constitution is so unique and important in the history of the world and to your future. Understand how our Constitution makes us all Americans first, with a common bond of personal responsibility to our nation and each other. Understand and appreciate that America is, in fact, the greatest nation on earth and an experiment that dare not fail. And then swear to yourself that you will “support and defend your Constitution and your country against all enemies foreign and domestic.”

If a veteran was willing to do it for you, should you not be willing to do it for yourself and all other Americans? If you think the challenge I offer you is great, remember that Americans never turn away from a good challenge.

Jack Hamilton can be reached at gradiver@wavecable.com.

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