I never felt owed for my service. I always figured I was paid in full by my American birthright of freedom. It is indeed wonderful for a nation to set aside a day to recognize the men and women who served and sacrificed defending freedom. Not defending a nation. Defending something greater than any nation. Freedom. God gave us freedom. Our side of the bargain is to be the guardian of it.
Americans have sacrificed the world over protecting freedom. Our Soldiers have conquered lands and defeated tyrants only to return the conquered land to her people. Leaving them with a chance at freedom if they are willing to remain free.
Of all of those with whom I served, to a man or woman, it is the rare one who felt owed for their service. Most of them considered it an honor and privilege to be a protector of freedom.
I cannot speak for any Veteran of the armed forces. I can only speak my mind. Something the Army in which I served encouraged, demanded. From my observations, not so much these days.
I do not know a better word with which to express it. Betrayal. I know it is a harsh choice to describe what I feel. I learned through my life that the truth can be harsh, but never as harsh as avoiding it. For some, the truth must hit them hard in the face before they understand it and take actions to change destructive behaviors. Make a necessary course correction so that something much greater than self might survive. A nation of people. Living free.
I feel betrayed by the American permanent political class. A class all its own. A cultural spectacle. Something never intended for a free representative republic. It was to be service by citizens. A government of the people and by the people. Not a political aristocracy directing every aspect of each Americans life. A class of people desiring to be the source of freedom rather than protector of it. Doling it out to the serf class in whatever amounts they feel sufficient. Shielded from the consequences of inane laws and bolstered by the wealthy they all claim to despise, they trample their oaths taken to defend the Constitution of the United States. The document which guarantees freedom to all Americans, but only when those sworn to adhere to it and defend it do so.
The political class these days is led by men who started their political careers disparaging Veterans and standing with both feet on the American flag. The American flag. After the Cross, it is the greatest symbol of freedom in the history of humankind. They do not have to stand on it physically to desecrate it. They only have to continue what they are doing. Ignoring their oaths and furthering the hold the political class has on the throat of freedom. To them, sadly, Veteran is just another rhetorical tool in the political bag. Used to invoke passion, persuade voters, and win elections. Then it is put back into the bag for when it is next needed.
I feel betrayed by the many Americans who take freedom for granted. Freedom. It has always been here in America. Owning property. Coming and going as one pleases. Guaranteed rights. A land of abundance. Opportunity unsurpassed in the history of the world. All taken for granted. Taken for granted because many have lost touch with their American heritage. Traded it in for pop culture. Ignorant of the struggle of their forefathers to wrest freedom from tyranny, they know who is hot on American Idol. They know the best stores in the mall. They know a hundred different varieties of coffee. They know nothing of how Americans gained freedom. Nothing. Freedom is never for free. It is a gift. One to be cherished. In this world, only Americans are guaranteed it. When it is gone from here, it will be gone from the world. To each American is passed the torch. “To be yours, to hold it high.”
In Flanders Fields
Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, 1872-1918
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies blow
In Flanders fields.