I'm going to be reflecting in the next few days about why I love this country and what makes it special. There are so many marvelous things, intrinsic and external that make America a remarkable place to live.
But, there is one thing that is critical to all of those other things: the U.S. Military. One of the things I lament most about our overly-politicized age is that supporting soldiers has become a partisan issue. I think that is wrong. A serviceman or woman who puts their life on the line is not a Republican or Democrat. They are a human being making sacrifices for others and we need to remember that. One does not have to agree with everything the military is ordered to do or like military culture to be grateful to the brave people who serve.
I know that there have been times when those wearing the country's uniform did things that were wrong and I don't excuse that. However, when we talk about America, we have to remember to compare her to real countries, not hoped-for utopias. I would also add that the fact that bad behavior outrages us as much as it does is the exception that proves the rule.
I believe that by any historical standard, the U.S. Military is one of the most humane, responsible and benign forces ever. That is all the more impressive when one considers how powerful they are. No other country has ever had such a powerful military or been so restrained in how they use it.
No other military has been deployed so many times for humanitarian purposes. The number of times American blood has been shed to help other countries is truly remarkable.
Part of this is because of the way our Founders structured the government. Civilian control is a big deal. However, part of it is also the character of those who serve.
I've been privileged to know a number of servicemen and women over the years. I taught evening classes for a few semesters at a military base. Like the rest of us, there are the good and bad apples, I suppose, but my experience was that there was a fundamental decency and goodness about those who wear or wore their country's uniform. There is a real courage and honor to these people, a willingness to protect others at the cost of their own lives. In more dangerous times, this was something that was considered a necessary masculine virtue. As our day-to-day lives have become more safe physically and less strenuous, this trait has receded and is almost seen as being quaint and old-fashioned. Today, one finds it very rarely outside of police, firefighters, and the military. But there is a real nobility about it, in my opinion, and it deserves to be lauded and celebrated.
Last night, I was asked to speak at a patriotic concert. One of the songs the choir sang was a medley featuring the theme songs of each of the major branches of the U.S. Military. As the choir sings, the convention is those in the audience who have served in that branch of the service stand up so they can be recognized for their service.
I've seen this a few times and it reduces me to tears in just a few minutes every time. Seeing real people stand up and thinking about the sacrifice they were willing to make for the freedom and protection of those they don't know always touches my deeply.
I think of the hours of training, the physical deprivation and suffering, the danger and the emotional toll. I think of lost comrades and families left behind. There is a powerful human drama behind each of those who stands. And, of course, for everyone who stands, there those who cannot stand because they didn't come back.
I'm grateful for the service of all the men and women who have worn their country's uniform over the years. Our freedoms are wonderful, precious, and glorious. But they are only as good as the strength we have to defend and protect them. The world is, and has always been, a dangerous place.
So, to all veterans, and to those who serve now: thank you for protecting me and my family. Thank you for all you do and for doing it so well.
I found a clip of the song I mentioned above and hope you enjoy it.
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