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Gratitude to those who have served
There is a potent symbolism in how Veterans Day falls so soon after Election Day. In this short succession of the calendar we can see a definition of the American experiment — the peaceful exercise of our constitutional government and the need to protect our precarious freedoms from the forces that would destroy them.
In the wake of a midterm election that seems to have steadied our national future in a time of great danger from within our country, we can now turn to honoring those who have stood sentry around the globe, at great peril and sacrifice, to ensure the continuation of our nation’s peace and prosperity.
It is fitting that Veterans Day grew out of Armistice Day. This is the 11th day of the 11th month, commemorating the end of what was originally called The Great War and then World War I, because another global conflict soon followed. The fate of a soldier is to prepare for war but hope for peace.
We, as a nation, recognize the necessity of having armed forces to ensure the safety and security of the homefront and the larger world, but we should always hope these forces face battle only as a last resort. Our history tells of particular tragedy — in places like Vietnam and Iraq — when we entered into conflict we should have avoided.
The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform is not limited to active warfare. It can be found in the myriad manifestations of duty required by those who have taken the oath to serve. It can be found in long deployments and missed time with loved ones. It can be found in physical and emotional exertion. And it can be found in the strain of always preparing for the possibility of war.
Our military also has been a driver of social change. It desegregated before the country did. And it has offered a path of opportunity for many who desperately needed it, including those from immigrant and marginalized groups. But like the society it reflects, the American military is not immune from the divisions seen in the nation at large. Our political and military leaders must be diligent in rooting out racism, sexism, bigotry, homophobia, and the extremism that has been on the rise in recent years.
We have seen evidence that the MAGA mindset has taken root to some degree in our military and among some of those who served. Many who stormed the Capitol on January 6 were veterans. And the ranks of groups like the Proud Boys are reportedly full of veterans as well. These people embody the antithesis of those who wore the uniform before them. Our brave veterans defeated the Nazis and the forces of violent autocracy more generally. They protected us from the Soviet Union. They stood guard against a world that despised our diversity and our freedoms. This is the legacy we honor today.
Our veterans have been the authors of many of the key inflection points in our nation’s history. They have ushered us from danger to hope, from strife to peace, and from division to unity. As we struggle to find our footing in an era of disorientation and peril, let us express our gratitude to those whose steadfastness and courage allow us to continue on our journey toward a more perfect union.
To all of you who have served, we thank you. Steady.
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