Today is Veteran’s Day. Today we honor the men and women who are part of our American military.
I know that so many people wish that we just didn’t need you—that there were no wars to be fought. That we could all just get along.
One day, yes. But that’s a description of heaven. That’s not what we have here on this imperfect planet. Have there been unjust wars? Yes. Have wars been fought for stupid reasons? Yes. Is war terrible? Yes.
We could get into a big discussion about that here. But I’m not going to.
I’m also not here to talk about the merits of various wars. I’m not here to honor or condemn any particular commander-in-chief.
I’m here to thank the men and women who swore to protect our freedoms. I’m here to thank the men and women who, answerable to their commander-in-chief (for anyone who might not know, that’s the president of the United States), do what they are called to do. I’m here to honor the men and women who take that job seriously, who are compassionate when they need to be and deadly when they need to be. I’m here to thank the people who fight for freedom.
I wish that we didn’t need you, that everyone in the world could just get along. Unfortunately, that is just not a reality. The best way to preserve freedom is for our country to have a strong enough military that says, “Don’t mess with us.” You who go into harm’s way to help preserve that freedom, who protect us, who help the rest of the world know that to mess with us is to bring the greatest nation in the world down on them—thank you.
I wish that more people understood the sacrifices you make—in families separated for long stretches and, when not separated, in families uprooted and moved to new places; in facing enemy fire; in PTSD and things you can’t unsee when you close your eyes to sleep; in doing all of this for pathetic pay.
You make these sacrifices because you believe in America.
My dad, Col. Philip Chaffee (USAF-Ret.) circa 1967 while serving in Vietnam.
We just came out of a very divisive election. The country is split. But you know what? That’s what voting is all about. Some win; some lose. I have cried my eyes out over a few elections; I’ve sighed with relief at others. To those of you out there protesting that the new president is not yours, look around for two seconds and realize that you are allowed to do this. You are allowed to feel this way. No one’s going to put you in jail for your opinion (unless you start doing something illegal). You live in the greatest country in the world. You’re FREE!
And here’s the bottom line: One election cannot destroy a free people.
Take a look at our history to see what we’ve survived.
This is what you thank a veteran for. Too many people just don’t seem to understand that freedom isn’t free. It has to be protected.
But here’s the other side of the coin. With freedom comes a huge amount of responsibility. We’re free—but not to hurt one another. Not to make fun of one another. Not to badmouth those who disagree with us. We’re free to express opinions, but we must always do so respectfully, realizing that the person across from us with a very different opinion came to that opinion in his or her own reasoned way just as we did.
Has America had some very bad policies? Oh yeah. Have some presidents made some really bad decisions? Heck yes. Does America have some really big problems to work on? You bet.
But it has always been that way. Always. No country is perfect just as no person is perfect. We are all fallible and the best we can do is, when we see a problem, decide that we need to fix it. And we start to figure out how to do that.
We need all of the voices in the conversation—but there is no conversation if everyone is offended or upset or name-calling. The way we get to the best decisions is when we sit down and hear one another.
He’s my hero; he’s my dad.
And for everyone upset about this election, realize that for the rest of your life, you’ll win some, you’ll lose some. Also, realize that most voters look at a way larger picture and take into account way more things—especially those of us who are older and try to look at the office and the nation and the future, which are way bigger than a single man or woman. And take a quick look at history. This country swings back and forth between Democrat and Republican presidents and Congress. If we don’t like what we have, we are able to vote them out next time around.
That’s what you thank a vet for. Helping preserve that freedom for the last 240 years.
Many of the greatest changes that happened in our country have not been top-down decisions from a president. That’s the genius of our system of government—a system people have fought and died for. Change happens when FREE people voice their opinions and work for change and vote in the lawmakers who could make the changes happen. In at least one case in particular, we fought a horrifying war on our own soil because of those differing opinions.
And if those lawmakers don’t win? Then stand strong on your principles, keep your respectful voice being heard, and keep working for the change you feel needs to happen.
Thank a vet for that.
Thank a vet that we are still a free country where we can have vastly different opinions and live together, work together, serve together, worship together.
The best way we can honor our veterans is being worthy of their sacrifices.
So instead of letting our opinions divide us, instead of being angry that there are actually people who think differently than we do, why don’t we instead find ways to make positive change—in our personal lives, in our families, in our communities and workplaces, in our world? Why don’t we now take a deep breath, listen to one another, learn from one another, understand the very deep feelings on both sides, and work together to make whatever needs to be improved better?
Our country has made a lot of mistakes, but I can say without hesitation that the United States is the greatest country in the world. But FREEDOM is a privilege that must be handled with great appreciation and great care. We have come a long way. We still have a long way to go. We will always have a long way to go. There will always be huge new problems to face. But we won’t face them down by refusing to listen to one another or refusing to learn from our own history.
Today, I thank my Uncle Howard (who has passed away) for his sacrifice in World War II, and I thank my dad, who bravely flew a hundred missions over North Vietnam and faced enemy fire.
Thank you, Dad, for serving our country. Thank you, Mom, for providing a haven wherever we moved, for making each new house a home.
So why should you thank a vet? Because these men and women sacrifice for an ideal—the ideal of freedom.
So you can be FREE.
Thank you, veterans, for serving and preserving this great country. May the rest of us learn from your example.