Liberty is rooted in sacrifice. As John Quincy Adams commented, “Posterity: you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom.” The men who founded this nation did so at great personal sacrifice, and with great personal sacrifice, that independence was preserved through the early days of our republic. While it has been generations since we have seen a war fought in our front yards, seen our loved ones captured and tortured by the enemy, or found our leaders in debtor’s prison because of their generosity to the cause of liberty, it does not mean that more recent generations have not greatly sacrificed to preserve our freedom.
From World War I, after which Veteran’s Day was created, through the Second World War, the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam War, The Gulf War, and the War on Terror, millions have served faithfully, and from them, we can learn many valuable lessons about what preserving freedom means.
First, veterans show us that liberty is rooted in sacrifice. Whether in war or peace time, these men and women give up time with family, the comforts of home, the opportunity earn a competitive wage, and the right to call their lives their own, because they understand that their constant readiness most effectually preserves our peace and security. Many leave service scarred, and not just physically, but none have complained that cost was too great. They gave what they can never get back to protect us from threats abroad, and we owe them the sacrifice of vigilance required to make sure that the homeland is safe from threats within. The least we can do is give of our time and ourselves to hold each other and our government accountable to the principles that make this nation great.
Second, veterans show us that service begins with complete selflessness. Veterans are some of the most giving people one can encounter, because the last person they think of is always their self. One of the best men I have ever had the privilege and honor of knowing is my grandfather, a Vietnam veteran. Daily he prays that God would bless his wife, children, grandchildren, community, and nation, but he never prays for himself, because he feels that God blessed him more than he could ever ask in bringing him safely home. Other veterans have expressed similar convictions, including a World War II veteran I knew who spent four months as a prisoner of war. Into their late eighties, he and his wife, despite failing health, would serve weekly in church and invite young families and adolescents over and mentor them, not because it was easy or convenient, but because they cared enough to invest in the future of the community. Veterans, who have arguably done their part already, continue serve in countless ways that should inspire us all to look for opportunities to be a blessing to others daily. If we each thought of ourselves last, and made “the welfare of our country…the great object to which our cares and efforts [are] directed,” this would be a different nation and a better world.
More than any other thing, today’s veterans remind us broken things are worth fighting to fix. If you talk to any veteran or active serviceman about the state of the nation, none are so naive as to deny the perilous point we find ourselves in, nor are they blind to the brokenness of our society. However, there is no more optimistic group than veterans to reassure you that the blessings of liberty and principles behind our greatness can be and will be restored. This is what they have defended with their lives. Many have faced tyranny and despotism of the worst sorts, and where we often see insurmountable challenges, they see bright opportunity.
This Veteran’s Day, thank a veteran for his service, and pledge learn from the lessons he teaches, so that the freedom he purchased will not be in vain. His faithful service demands nothing less than our faithful stewardship.
“Signers of the Declaration of Independence.” http://www.ushistory.org/DECLARATION/SIGNERS/INDEX.HTM
 The Fist State of the Union Address. George Washington. January 8, 1790. http://ahp.gatech.edu/first_state_union_1790.html