Today is Veterans Day. Our insufficient response, yet so deeply authentic from most, is simply, "Thank you."
A poem by Charles M. Province captures the truth of the service and sacrifice of our veterans of the military:
It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.
It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the Soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.
It is the Soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the Soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.
It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protestor to burn the flag.
While our attentions and minds are drawn to the noise of politics, the battles of government control, and the other incessant power-plays of those whose need for power and ego will never cease, the soldiers who have served, who have fought, and sadly, those still missing-in-action, are those who have continually protected our freedoms.
No other single group has been the defender of individual liberties that define the founding, the existence, and the future of America more than those who serve in the various branches of our military service.
Their oath of enlistment is minimal, yet so very expansive and imperative in its first few words:
"I, (the soldier's name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same..."
Aristotle wrote in the Nicomachean Ethics, 325 BC, of the necessity to toil and sacrifice to enjoy the fruits in life: "And happiness is thought to depend on leisure; for we are busy that we may have leisure, and make war that we may live in peace."
Years ago, I was asked by U.S. Sen. Bill Frist to serve on a military academy panel that interviewed aspiring applicants for West Point, the Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and Coast Guard Academy.
One of the high school seniors who sat before us presented her resume, but also revealed a window into her heart.
Dressed in her JROTC uniform, she verbally walked us through the bullet points recording her qualifications. But the answer she gave to one of the questions asked, not listed on the bright, white sheet of paper, is that which earned her the highest recommendation.
"What passion drives you in seeking this nomination to the Air Force Academy?" I asked.
"I love my country and all that it means. I'm willing to die for that," was her quick answer.
I'm reminded of the red-letters of John 15 as Christ told His disciples of His great love for them and "that greater love hath no man but this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
Veterans, you were willing to lay down your life for the greatness of our nation, the love of our authentic freedom to pursue liberty, prosperity, and dreams that have no limits outside the bounds of our energies.
With tears in my eyes as I type and a deep well of gratitude my heart: Thank you! May God bless you and your precious sacrifice of time and service, and may God bless America, again...and always.
Robin Smith served as chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party, 2007 to 2009. She is a partner at the SmithWaterhouse Strategies business development and strategic planning firm and serves on Tennessee's Economic Council on Women.