I wish I could honestly say I enlisted for all the most noble reasons of patriotism and service to the country and my fellow man.
I didn’t. I had other reasons as well. I wanted the paycheck and the travel and the adventure.
But I did indeed have some sense of obligation to the nation and her people when I joined.
This TED talk has been around a while, and many of you no doubt have seen it. And while the Dutch have their own history, and their own worldview on military might, I think most soldiers can at support this point of view.
Originally posted this two years ago on my Civil War blog, save for a few updates as to the year marks, this still comes closest to capturing what I think being a veteran means:
Today being Veterans Day, I’ve spend time walking through my old papers and files from “my history” a bit. But in the end, I started pulling out the folders on World War I. We’ve put several coats of paint on this calendar day in the last 93 years [Now 95], but it’s still the eleventh day of the eleventh month. And in my mind, the man who stands tall when I think of World War I is Alvin C. York.
In spite of his somewhat un-military (and under educated) background, York offered one of the best explanations why a nation such as the United States must have soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines. On Memorial Day, 1941, York gave these thoughts while speaking at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington:
There are those in this country today who ask me and other veterans of World War Number One, ‘What did it get for you?’ … The thing they forget is that liberty and freedom and democracy are so very precious that you do not fight to win them once and stop. You do not do that. Liberty and freedom and democracy are prizes awarded only to those people who fight to win them and then keep fighting eternally to hold them!*
President Franklin D. Roosevelt later used portions of York’s speech in his Armistice Day address later that same year. So perhaps it is fitting that I cite it here on Veterans Day.
* This portion of York’s Memorial Day is cited in Sergeant York: An American Hero, by David Lee (University Press of Kentucky, 2002).
A tip of the hat and a thank you to URR, Craig, Phat*, Padre Dave and all you wonderful readers who know the pleasure, pride, and all too often, heartbreak, that comes with this simple statement**:
“I, _____, 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; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”
I’m gonna head down to Applebee’s and have a steak.
*Phat promises he’s going to start contributing soon.
**Yes, I know the oath of officer for commissioned officers is slightly different.
I should like to say some inspiring words on this day, but if even Neptunus Lex cannot outdo himself, I certainly shall not try. Go forth, and read.