A recent discussion centered on the need to make Election Day a federal holiday, to encourage higher voter turnout and to give that important part of life a higher-profile status. It's a good idea, but not at the expense of other important days of recognition that fall during that same time frame.
Veterans have more than earned their day in the spotlight. Nov. 11 is Veterans Day, and turning that into a sharing arrangement might call more attention to the privilege of voting, but it could also put the sacrifice veterans have made for their country on the back burner.
Last year, with the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc, many Veterans Day events – including Tahlequah's parade – were canceled. At the time, it made sense, because veterans are deemed among the more vulnerable. The pandemic isn't over yet, but it has eased up enough that the parade is back on, and local veterans are ready to enjoy camaraderie as they commemorate their critical role in society.
For a few, the "veteran" status can be controversial, but it need not be. The cultivated images of protesters spitting on soldiers returning from Vietnam may still be remembered and passed along, but except in all but the most radical quarters, military personnel are no longer viewed in a negative light. To frown upon the armed services is to reject the U.S. with all its ideals and its flaws, and to lack a clear understanding of what motivates many people to enlist.
There was a time when men were forced into military service, but that, too, goes against the grain of constitutional constructs. People should never be forced by the government to enlist – or, as Libertarians would argue, do almost anything else. Conscription may bolster numbers, but it does nothing to ensure loyalty, ability, or the aptitude and attitude required of soldiers and sailors.
These days, Americans join the service for a variety of reasons. Some are looking for a path to career advancement; others, a means of securing an education. Many seek a steady paycheck, or are looking for a job that takes them to exotic locales and opens new avenues of discovery. But the underlying impetus – as it has always been – is almost always allegiance to country, a drive to make a difference, and the courage to face an unknown future that could include the ultimate sacrifice. Rarely is the goal to take the lives of enemies, real or perceived, and when it is, those psychopaths are usually drummed out – far more successfully than with society as a whole.
So, Americans need not approve of war to honor veterans, nor should they pass judgment. Most vets, in fact, are disgusted by the tendency of politicians to spoil for war, especially when the one making the demands has never served. Lack of military service is a trait shared by the vast majority of elected officials, and the willingness to force others to risk their lives – when they won't do the same – is repugnant. Such people should not be given positions that put them in a "leadership" role over military personnel.
It's incumbent upon all citizens of this country to honor veterans, because without them, the U.S. would simply cease to exist. "Thanks for your service" may seem like a trite comment these days, but they deserve the thanks – and so much more. As for veterans themselves, they should all join one of the fine local organizations, and enjoy the fellowship and other benefits those groups offer. These groups need help to stay afloat – and what better source than their brothers and sisters in arms.