American exceptionalism. Look no further than the American veteran. They are not exceptional just because of where they fought; they are exceptional because of why they fought. Throughout world history, armies have come and gone but what sets the American veteran apart doesn’t have so much to do with the uniform they wore or the gear they packed. It has everything to do why they fought.
They fought on behalf of a people rooted in a belief that all men are created equal and that they are endowed with God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and that governments and militaries are in place to protect our liberty. This principle of what freedom is has motivated our troops to take their rifles and our flag into battle for well over 200 years; committed to the cause of liberty and the safety of the American people.
Lord G.K. Chesterton once wrote that the definition of courage involves a contradiction in terms; he said that courage is having a desire to live that is so unbelievably strong that a person is actually willing to die fighting for life. I read this and thought about how appropriate this definition is as to why we celebrate and honor our veterans on Veterans Day; because as Americans, we understand and we remember that we have men and women who’s desire to keep us free is so unbelievably strong that they are willing to die for that freedom. This is why the American veteran is special. This is why every single one of them deserves our respect and our admiration and just a simple thank you to them is quite literally the very least we can do to show our appreciation.
Sometimes, it can be easy to assume that veterans are just those older guys who wear veterans hats with their units stitched on them. Likewise, it’s easy to think of young people when we are putting a care package together for the troops serving overseas during the holidays. In just a couple of years however, many of those 22 year old soldiers, sailors, airman and Marines are going to be 24 year old veterans. We have brave Americans all around us today; we cross paths with them daily and many times we only recognize them if they are older gentleman wearing a hat swapping war stories at Cracker Barrel. Today, you might not know it, but a veteran might be the voice at the other end of a courtesy call from the online service you used to arrange your family vacation but three years ago she was a 21 year old medic working with wounded troops in Germany. He is the highly successful businessman who is always in hurry and the homeless man with nothing to brag about but his Ranger tattoo. He might be a state representative who wishes he could see his friends again and would give anything to go on just one night in the field with his old platoon. They are everywhere. They are in our hospitals and veterans homes where once again they rely on each other for support. No matter what their circumstances are today, our veterans deserve our gratitude.
Please take every opportunity you can to thank veterans for their service. There will come a time in the not too distant future when we will not be able to thank them anymore. Talk to your kids, explain to them that Call of Duty and Medal of Honor are more than just popular video games; they are words that characterize the exceptionalism of the best and the brightest America has had to offer.
Happy Veterans Day. Thank you for your service.
Missouri State Representative District 109