Veterans Day is always a day of reflection for me.
Note that I’m not a particularly reflective kind of guy and I don’t spend a hell of a lot of time dwelling on the past.
For me, as a veteran, every day is a day to remember those I served with, those who trained me and led me, and those I trained and led myself. Those men and women – the good and the bad, the faithful and the faithless, the leaders and the followers, those who came before me and those who followed after, those that still live and serve and fight, those who like me who have hung up their swords, and always, always, those who have given the last full measure – I remember them, each and every one, every day.
I don’t dwell on it, but they are always with me.
They are the people who made me what I am.
And on this day, I raise a glass to them. Here’s to you, you magnificent bastards, one and all. Here’s to us and all we shared.
If you’re an American, you owe your freedom to those who risked all in your name.
You don’t need to kiss our asses, you’re not required to shed tears, you don’t need to hunt down a veteran and prostrate yourself.
This day is not a wake. It’s a celebration.
In our country, in a free society, the warrior is no more revered than any other citizen – and that’s a good thing.
But do take a moment on this day to remember us, if only briefly.
Raise a glass and remember those who served their country in peace and in war, those who came when called and those who came of their own free will to stand between home and war’s desolation. There is always more you could do, of course, but that is your choice. Yours and yours alone.
And then, go on about your lives. Live, be free, revel in it – because that, ultimately, is why they do what they do.
To all of my brothers and sisters in arms, those of you who have stood the watch, those of you who walked point into the unknown, and those of you who are even now out there in the dark and dangerous corners of the world, my message to you remains ever the same:
Respect is earned, each and every day, by every word, by every action. It can’t be bought, it can’t be bargained for. It can be lost with a single deed, a single careless gesture, a single failure to act. Men and women will lay down their lives at your command, but they won’t do it for freedom or democracy or because you’re bigger or tougher or the meanest son of bitch who ever lived or because you’re smarter or better educated or because they love you or because they hate you, they do it because they respect you. Respect is why Americans remember you today – or not.
Respect is the only authority you have, guard it well.
Be proud of who you are and the uniform you wear.
You are more than a simple Soldier, Sailor, Marine, Airman, or Guardsman, you are the very symbol of this nation and its people – for good or bad – and the first bulwark against the night. When you put on that uniform, you are the United States of America, you represent us all. Never forget that, not for one single moment.
Hold your head high, hold your honor dear, be always true to your oath.
Stand steadfast by your duty even when there is no one to see.
Follow those who lead and lead those who will follow.
Leave no one behind.
And remember the fallen. Always.
To all of you who have worn the uniform, thank you for your service and your sacrifice on this day, and every other.
//Jim Wright, Chief Warrant Officer, United States Navy (Retired).