Veterans Day. It’s more than just a day when banks and post offices are closed. It’s more than just a day to avoid restaurants offering free meals to vets because you know they’ll be packed. It’s truly a day to reflect on service and sacrifice found in the U.S. military, often handed down from one generation to another.
My dad fought in the Korean War. Until enlisting, he was a pitcher in the minor league system. I can only imagine how quickly his life changed upon joining the Army. He explained that he watched his friends be drafted so he volunteered, in order to have some say in the process. He ended up in a 105 Howitzer crew on the front lines in Korea. I wonder if in hindsight he felt like he had any say at all. After returning to civilian life, he never pitched again. But I never heard him complain. He believed he had a responsibility to serve his country and he told my brothers and me as much. He urged us to step forward and make our own sacrifices if our country needed us.
My dad’s words didn’t go unheard. My older brother joined the Army; I joined the Army Reserves. We knew it was an honor to wear the uniform of our country’s bravest and finest. We were trained and ready to serve in combat if our country needed us. We were blessed by peaceful times during our years that we didn’t have to stand on the front lines like our father. But nonetheless, the lessons of military service shaped us. We saw the best of American values personified in our fellow soldiers.
The most obvious American value we saw was sacrifice. This is just what servicemen and women do. They give up time from their families, their friends and their way of life. Some give up their youth. And some give up their lives, in the ultimate sacrifice for country and for neighbor. It’s hard for some to understand this level of sacrifice, but military members get it. They understand there are things greater than themselves. They understand words we don’t hear often in everyday life like “valor” and “honor.” They understand freedom isn’t free and that every generation has a responsibility to protect our American freedoms.
I’m proud that I have a son currently serving in the Minnesota National Guard. He followed in his grandfather’s footsteps and serves in an artillery unit. He is carrying the torch of freedom and I pray daily for his protection.
As I pursue a different type of service to this nation, that of serving in Congress, I consider the great ways we can give back to our veterans. In the coming months I’ll expound on ways we can guarantee veterans’ physical and mental health needs are met, how true VA reform ensures vets aren’t waitlisted and lost in the system, and how we can prioritize access to care for vets in rural areas.
But today, Veterans Day, we reflect on sacrifice. We show our appreciation to military members, both past and present. And we join together to thank God for the brave men and women throughout our country’s history have been willing to defend our freedoms without hesitation.