Veteran’s Day has been designated as the day when the nation gives thanks to those who have served and are currently serving in our armed services. The U.S. is the greatest nation on earth thanks to our veterans and those who made the ultimate sacrifice. I hope that in the course of thanking our active duty members and vets we also thank the families who sacrificed while their parent or spouse was deployed. We can only remain a great nation if there is a steady supply of able-bodied young men and women who are willing to accept the responsibilities of enlistment. Those responsibilities include dedication, hard work and sacrificing your life if necessary. We have had an all-volunteer force (AVF) since 1973 which suggests that all those who have served since then have done so of their own volition. Social scholars could argue that an AVF places an undue burden on middle and lower class families who may have fewer economic and educational opportunities. Under the AVF we have seen a fair representation of society in general with few exceptions. Today’s enlisted force is 15% female, 16% African-American and 92% high school grads. In the officer ranks, 95% have bachelors degrees and 38% have advanced degrees. What is more concerning to me is the assault on patriotism. It disgusts me to see professional athletes refusing to stand during the “displaying of the colors” and the performance of the national anthem. I’m angered when I see protesters trample the flag (or worse, burn it). Service members are often referred to as the “one percent” of the population that protects the remaining 99%. My opinion says that if my 1% is willing to die for a flag, the least the other 99% could do is show some respect for that flag! Unfortunately there are some in athletics, politics and the media who appear intent on damning patriotism and equating it with nationalism. Patriotism is a love of country and your fellow Americans. Patriotism brings us together after a disaster to help one another through tragedies. Patriotism prompts us to enlist after 9/11 to prevent further terrorist attacks on our friends and neighbors. Nationalism is a desire to conquer and control others; that has never been the goal of this country. If we allow patriotism to die then our country will die along with it.
I am concerned that the patriotic spirit and desire to serve our country in the military will wither on the vine. It seems many of our young are more interested in video games than fitness and helping others. It is estimated that 71% of 17-24 yr olds would not qualify for the military simply due to obesity or lack of fitness. I am proud of my military service and would volunteer to do so again. Most, if not all, of my brothers and sisters in arms would agree on that point. It is nice when someone thanks me for my service but that isn’t the reason I enlisted. I joined out of a sense of duty and gratitude to a nation that has been good to me; this was my opportunity to give something in return. I think many vets believe in the saying, “I don’t hate the people in front of me as much as I love the people behind me.”