Every year on November 11, Americans gather at Veterans Day observations to honor and thank America’s veterans for their service to the country. It is certainly right and proper that they do so, but is that the extent of what our countrymen must do to show appreciation for those who put their lives at risk to serve the nation? As one of those veterans, I submit it is the very least of what they are obliged to do.
Men and women who serve in the U.S. military forces are required to carry out their orders to the best of their ability. That is their role in this remarkable democracy and they have performed it well over the long haul, even when the going was dire and deadly. As a teenager in the mid-50s, I remember my heart swelling with pride when I read about our troops assaulting Omaha Beach at Normandy and engaging in bitter combat in the Pacific islands. It was heart-stopping to read about Americans facing human wave assaults in the bitter cold of the forgotten war in Korea.
I personally witnessed U.S. military personnel working together in harmony, draftees and volunteers alike, in fighting Communist forces in Vietnam. Network television showed us the dangers that U.S. troops faced from insurgents and IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan. Through it all, our military personnel did what was asked of them, performing in an exemplary fashion. They did not put themselves at risk to get thanks and praise at some future Veterans Day. They were told their service was essential to protect American democracy, even at the cost of their very lives. Many paid that ultimate price, thinking that preservation of our self-governed union was well worth it.
The fact is that paying lip service to veterans once a year is the very least we owe these intrepid souls. If they could risk their lives for our democracy, everyone at home is under a heavy obligation to exert his or her best efforts to preserve it. Quite frankly, we have done a wretched job of meeting that responsibility. These last few years have seen too many of us put the country at serious risk by ignoring the rule of law that is the bedrock of our enlightened system of self-government.
We just have to look at the recent election to see the grievous harm done to the foundations of our country. Despite the fact that American elections have been the gold standard around the world for years, false claims of election fraud have run rampant across Idaho and the nation without an iota of supporting evidence. Nothing could be so hurtful to the country because those false claims attack the most important pillar of our democracy–the selection of our leaders by popular vote. Some have joined the fraud chorus–think Dorothy Moon and her extremist branch of the Republican Party–primarily for political gain. Others have gone along by failing to do their democracy homework, believing without question the untrue claims spewing from biased propaganda outlets.
For instance, numerous false claims have been made by anti-democratic groups, like the Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF) and its affiliates, that our public schools, another important foundation of our system, are indoctrinating our children. Allegations of critical race theory, grooming, smut peddling and whatever else are just pure baloney. IFF is engaged in a cynical effort to subvert public education so it can be replaced by taxpayers-supported private schools that would truly indoctrinate kids in the fashion desired by IFF’s dark money contributors.
If we take seriously our obligation to honor those who have risked their lives to protect and preserve the American system, each and every one of us must stay better informed on the issues of critical importance to the state and nation. That means breaking free of spoon-fed “news” by propaganda outlets like Fox News, OAN and the like. It means keeping tabs on our federal and state officials and calling them out when they involve themselves in false claims or conspiracy theories. It means urging the public schools to double down on civics education so that we can have a better-informed public.
So, while we must continue to hold our veterans in high esteem and thank them for protecting our democracy, not just on Veterans Day but throughout the year, we are honor-bound to them to reciprocate on the home front–to devote ourselves to supporting and improving the system for which they put their lives at risk.