Last Monday was Veterans’ Day but you may have been a little confused since several ceremonies were held the previous week. That’s OK because I think that every day is a day to celebrate our veterans. The title of my column is Standing in the Gap and as you may remember, I chose that title to spotlight people and organizations that “stand in the gap” for what they believe in.
I can think of no group that better illustrates that philosophy than our veterans. For centuries now our military men and women have stood in the gap for the rest of this nation’s citizens to preserve and protect our freedoms. Too many people now take those freedoms for granted and think that they deserve them as part of their birthright.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. We are not owed any freedoms except those fought for and earned by those that have went before, defended by those that stand now and respected by those that will inherit those freedoms – not as part of a birthright but as a solemn responsibility not to be ignored or taken for granted.
President Reagan said that “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.” I don’t think anyone could say it better than that.
Those that have served and continue to serve do so out of their love of this country and what it represents. Other countries may think us arrogant and some leaders may think that they need to apologize for that perceived arrogance. Let’s get something straight right now – if you don’t think that you live in the greatest nation in the world then maybe you need to move to a place you think is better.
This is my country and even with all its warts and pimples it’s beautiful to me and I will never, ever, apologize for feeling like that to any other person or country. To me that would be like sticking a dagger into every service man or woman who has ever put on the uniform and swore to defend their nation and its constitution.
I ran across a quote the other day from President Wilson (no relationship). He once said “Some Americans need hyphens in their names, because only part of them has come over; but when the whole man has come over, heart and thought and all, the hyphen drops of its own weight out of his name.” I have said as much myself in different ways at different times but I think this is probably the best summation I have heard on the subject of hyphenated Americans.
Page 2 of 2 - I’m pretty sure that our brave patriots didn’t die for their country with the intention that people would call themselves hyphenated Americans. But, I’m also pretty sure that they died so that even those individuals would have the freedom to do so if they so wished. It’s a shame that many don’t honor their sacrifice by giving their whole being to this nation and not just part of it.
I attended several Veterans’ Day observances last week and I was moved to tears while watching those of our greatest generation. They were tears of pride, honor and respect for what they did for our country. The numbers of that group grow smaller each year until one day we will not have any left. How tragic that will be.
While I respect all veterans and their sacrifices, those that answered the call of duty in World War II hold a special place in my heart. And not just the veterans, but also all Americans who lived during that time in our history. While millions fought, the rest of the nation served at home and we truly were one nation fighting with all our breath and all our strength to protect and preserve our nation.
I truly do not think that those of us who were not alive at that time can ever really appreciate the sacrifices that were made by all Americans and I know we can never thank them enough for what they endured and for what they gave us – our continued freedoms and way of life. Apologize for American arrogance? Never. As Lee Greenwood sang, “And I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free. And, I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.”
Kevin Wilson writes a weekly column for the Daily News.