“…thank a Veteran!”

I was watching an episode of the series Life is Worth Living by Bishop Fulton J. Sheen this morning (it’s amazing to me how many things he spoke of during the 50’s that are still as applicable to society, today) and during the course of his lecture he spoke of the soldiers of a nation and how it is they who ensure the freedoms for the country that they serve. It reminded me of a coffee mug that I own, proudly, purchased from one of our local Cracker Barrel restaurant/stores. It is enameled and has pictures of American soldiers from the Revolution onward and, beneath it, has the following caption:

“It is the Veteran, not the preacher, who has given us freedom of religion.
It is the Veteran, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the Veteran, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the Veteran, not the campus organizer, who has given us freedom to assemble.
It is the Veteran, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the Veteran, not the politician, who has given us the right to vote.”

It then ends with the following, in large letters – “If you love your freedom, thank a Veteran!” An interesting side note is that the original poem that this is taken from ends with these words, which I wish had been included on the mug as well:

“It is the Veteran, who salutes the Flag,
It is the Veteran, who serves under the Flag,
To be buried by the flag,
So the protester can burn the flag.”

That resonated with me, this morning, as I thought of the freedoms which I and so many enjoy here in the USA, and how little we all may (myself included, far too often!) forget to appreciate the actions of those who have sacrificed to secure and protect those freedoms for us. All too often, I fear, the opposition to this idea runs along the lines of an English professor I had in college, whose favorite pastime seemed to be trying to nail students in his class who disagreed with him. Upon hearing that I considered myself to be a patriotic person, he countered (in a very silky voice) with, “Oh, so you agree with everything our country does?” My response was, in a flat tone, “I said I was a patriot, sir – not a fool.” The class laughed at him, which he didn’t like, but it exposed his thinking for what it was – very limited. It was an either or, to him – either “My country, right or wrong,” or “My country, ALWAYS wrong.”

I reject both views, incidentally. To me, it is “My country, right AND wrong – but MY country.” 

Do I agree with everything our country does or has done? Of course not. Our country is made of people, and people make mistakes and sometimes egregious ones. However, the freedom that I have to NOT like those things comes from the work and sacrifice of our veterans, and that’s something that, in my opinion, no one should forget or forget to appreciate. They are the ones who give those who will take all the benefits of our country while doing nothing to support it the ability to do so. They are the ones who give, as the poem says, even the protester the right to burn the same flag that they are buried under. They are the ones who support those who complain endlessly about how “unfair” our country is while conveniently ignoring the benefits that have allowed them to become multi-millionaires through that same system.

Whatever any one of us may think of our government, our President, or any other member of our elected bodies, let’s remember one thing – it is the Veteran who has given us the right to be able to express that, and who continues to secure that right against those who would seek to take it from us. They deserve our thanks, our gratitude, and our respect.

From the bottom of my heart, they have mine.

God bless, today, my friend!