We read of great heroes and legends such as Hercules, Robin Hood or Superman. While the strength and virtues of these legends are mighty and noble, they pale in comparison to the U.S. veteran.
Our veterans are actual people who are heroes in reality. Without god-like strength or the ability to levitate and zoom through the sky, our veterans successfully protect our nation in an increasingly dangerous world. They train the hardest, are the most physically fit, and are the most devoted fighting force in the world. America’s military success is not solely due to superior technology, tactics or weapons. Without the selfless spirit and raw toughness of our veterans we could not win a single battle. The day of 9/11 was the worst reminder we are not immune from the horrors of war on our own soil. There is a reason we have not been afflicted with another tragedy such as this: those who selflessly volunteer to serve in our military.
After months of consideration, at the beginning of this year I decided to raise my right hand and take the oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” For nearly half of 2018 I have been at Basic Combat Training and Officer Candidate School in Fort Benning, Ga. In the near future I will commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Army Reserve. I can say with certainty my training has been one of the most challenging endeavors of my life. However, the reward of being a part of the United States Army is far greater than the physical pains and emotional stresses inflicted during training. My new found perspective on the military and those who serve has deepened my understanding of the meaning of personal sacrifice.
Throughout the world at all times service members are sacrificing on our behalf. This very moment a service member is living a life depraved of all the luxuries and securities we experience every day. Last night while we slept comfortably in our beds, a service member was awake fulfilling their duty. As we go through each day in peace and safety, a service member lives each day with the prospect of danger. This upcoming holiday season while we sit down with family or visit friends, thousands of service members will be miles away from those they hold most dear.
Why do they do this? They do not fight to plunder foreign treasures or suppress our fellow man. The American service member fights to preserve freedom and ensure our peace at home. G.K. Chesterton rightly noted, “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” The ideals our nation was founded upon and their preservation take precedence over comfort and safety to those who answer our nation’s call. “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are not mere buzz words or an empty cliche to sound patriotic. Hundreds of thousands of veterans put it all on the line and many have died so that we may have life, liberty, and pursue happiness.
Like the Prophet Isaiah, the American service member selflessly says, “Here am I, send me.” In a time when our culture encourages the question, “What’s in it for me?” let us emulate our veterans and consider, “What do I have to offer?” This common thread unites the first patriots who served under General Geprge Washington to the patriots of today. Let us us look less to entertainers and professional athletes for inspiration and more to those who sacrificed so much for us all without the expectation of notoriety or reward. Veterans are the true heroes among us.
The next time you stand for our national anthem it is my hope you will still stand a little taller. The next time you pledge allegiance to Old Glory have a little more conviction in your voice. We are Americans and heirs of the great freedoms so many have sacrificed and died to preserve. I surely hope in this polarized time we all can unite under the cause of honoring our veterans and doing our part to create a more perfect Union.
God Bless America.
Alex Butler, is a Hillsboro resident and currently an officer candidate with the U.S. Army.