Heart is heart, selflessness is selflessness, and sacrifice is sacrifice. Looking at photographs spanning nearly a century, from the outbreak of World War I to the current Afghani and Iraqi fronts to the Global War on Terror, it is impossible not to notice the similarity.
Sure, the vehicles and aircraft and equipment and weaponry and uniforms may have changed, but the people haven’t. Bravery, courage, principles and valor know no difference between an M1 Garand, BAR, M16 or M4. Jet propulsion and smart bombs and stealth technology cannot make any American man or woman more or less brave, more or less altruistic, more or less prepared to pay the ultimate sacrifice so that people like you and like me may draw another breath in freedom.
Whether it be an eighteen-year-old infantryman heading off to the hedgerows of northern France, or a young servicewoman inspiring skittish girls younger than themselves, staring at them from behind the constraints of culture and hijab, the same qualities shine through.
I think of and pray for them often, our fighting men and women of today and days gone by, and just as often I think of and pray for their families left behind, waiting nervously at home for news from the front abroad, whether that front be in Europe, the Pacific, Iraq, Afghanistan or points between. The United States of America and everyone in it owes everything to our veterans. Given the nature of the threats they’ve vanquished, it’s fair to say that the world owes everything as well. It takes a special kind of hero to put their lives on the line for freedom, and it takes special kinds of people to support that hero. To me, there is nothing more noble than someone willing to give of themselves for the safety, security and greater good of others.
“If there be trouble,” wrote Thomas Paine in the bitter cold of December 1776, “let it be in my day, that my child may have peace.”
It is for that purpose, that ultimate altruism, that hundreds of thousands of men and women have fought and died in an American uniform, and millions more behind them provide the necessary support and infrastructure so essential to the business of championing and maintaining liberty. One day out of the entire year, dedicated to saying “thank you” and offering appreciation, simply is not enough.
So, on this day just like every other day, to our veterans I offer a heartfelt “thank you.”
I hope you’ll think of those faces staring back from decades of fighting for freedom and do the same.