Friday, November 11, 2005

Duty called, and it still wants our numbers...

I can look at every branch of my and my wife's family trees, which have been rooted in American soil for many generations, and point out the ways in which each connected individual has embraced this country's best values and ingrained them within their ways of life. Here in the U.S., today is Veterans Day, where the custom has evolved to honor the veterans who have served in the military. I have many great uncles, uncles and cousins who enlisted -- and my own experience in the U.S. Air Force made me realize that the commitment a person makes to become a soldier also extends to their loved ones -- who must then make their own sacrifices in support of the greater duty that is at the heart of being "in the service."

My military experience took me to Turkey, where I had the chance to interact with soldiers who were fulfilling their obligations in a national system where military service was mandatory. And our own country's draft wreaked havoc on the men across our nation who were roundabout the age of my mother and father. Today, when I think about the men and women who have served in the past, my heart goes out to them -- but to do so, it must leap over the thousands of soldiers who are now standing in harm's way for what they believe in, in their uniforms, on active duty. My role is now relegated to being a veteran, but I'm keenly aware that duty continues to call. Plainly, in my humble opinion, the world is a tragic mess, and I feel that those of us who have served -- either in the military, or just by being Americans -- have obligations to somehow find the means to impact the world in positive ways. Justice and prosperity are part of the American ways, right? In my interpretation, those values can only prevail when we understand that they are meant to apply to all people, of all nations, races and creeds. My hat's off to you, my fellow veterans, on this day, and I hope you can understand my reasons for leaving it off out of respect for the rest of this planet's citizenry, many of whom have scores of reasons to believe that America does not deserve their admiration. Duty obliges us to do better.