November 11th is celebrated as Veterans Day. The date also has a historical legacy as World War I ended with a cease-fire and armistice on November 11, 1918.
In honoring veterans, America puts a patriotic face to the men and women that have served, fought and/or died for a grateful country. In our hyperbolic times it is routine to recognize military heroes and thank veterans and active-duty soldiers for service.
Our times however, have also revealed confusion about the notion of country. And yet, that notion is very much the impetus for political, social and even military action.
Even-though confused, many folks seem to want to define country in a way that separates rather than unites us as Americans. It appears that the definition of what it is to be an American has been severely affected by the atmosphere of change, especially demographic change that is the leading social and political indicator of the 21st Century.
As a result, many have become more “tribal” in their approach to their place in society. The irony is that the “tribe” is where one starts when thinking about the notion of country.
When my son was in the process of entering the United States Air Force Academy, we had a conversation about country and the opportunity to serve as it has been standard for our family to think of “country” as beginning with family. It is dad and mom, brothers and sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and the like that come to mind when thinking of country.
From there we go on to think of the people in our neighborhood, community, city, state and nation. It is an inductive process that begins with our “tribe” but then extends loyalty and service to every person, every place in the country and most of all honors our Constitution that defines us as a people and our way of life.
“Tribalism” today appears to be going the other way as too many people are coming to think of America in terms of their own sub-culture, their race, their ethnicity and most of all, their self-interest. The idea of service and sacrifice is being replaced by a struggle for power and the fear of losing it.
Veterans Day is a reminder that service, including the ultimate sacrifice for others, is a core principle of American values. Our military models that practice every day and our veterans think in those terms.
Inside our armed forces, family and tribe is made up of our buddies as everyone feels it is the commitment, devotion and duty to each other that can be the difference between life and death. There, service to country begins with service and care for each other.
Service men and women wake up every day to the life of warriors that perform their duty under a flag that represents us all. Their service is generally taken for granted and not even noticed until the drums of war are heard around the world.
Most of us have an active soldier and /or a military veteran in our family and its history. In honoring them, let us not forget that the veterans we see and interact with every day are but a living few of a long line that stretches back hundreds of years.
Just in the last couple of years I have lost two veterans and immediate members of my family and I plan to take the time to honor them. I hope that you will do the same with your warriors.