J. Marc Burgess, National Adjutant

Veterans Day brings together a nation divided

After the construction of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, there were mixed emotions over the design of the structure itself and—given the heated debate over the war—the appropriateness of its establishment.

The American Gold Star Mothers commented in support of the memorial, saying that patriotism at the time was a complicated matter. It used to be far simpler to build a military monument, the group said, because no matter the shape or form, the message was accepted by the public as “a noble cause, well served.”

Today, though public sentiment toward veterans is starkly different, we still see a great deal of division in our country—even within the veteran community. There are still many contrasting ideas of what patriotism means, often the result of incompatible politics.

As we pause on Veterans Day to acknowledge those who served, I hope we can all come together in the spirit of unity, just as our predecessors have done at the most challenging times in our nation’s history. Patriotism, at its heart, shouldn’t be a complicated matter at all.

It certainly needn’t be a political one.

In fact, I believe that patriotism holds a profoundly personal meaning to every individual—as unique as the reasons that led many of us to serve in the first place. It is the darkest moments for our country that have often yielded the most brilliant actions from our countrymen.

Each day, our veterans and service members give us plenty of examples to show how, through acts of service, we can bridge the divide.

When Hurricane Florence struck the East Coast, members from all branches of the military stepped up to help provide support. They helped evacuate those in the storm’s path, provided emergency relief services and medical care, distributed supplies, and conducted search and rescue operations. DAV service officers and volunteers were also on the ground in the storm’s wake, providing comfort and emergency aid to veterans who were impacted and displaced.

In September, when a senior housing complex caught fire not far from Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C., Marines rushed into the burning building to save residents, pushing them out on wheelchairs and stretchers, and carrying them out over their shoulders.

And every day, our members are working diligently to get veterans to and from medical appointments; to help them with their disability compensation claims; and to be there for those who, in particular, feel they have all but been forgotten.

Just as the Gold Star Mothers stoically sought to unify our country in days when few could agree, we must remember the things that touch our hearts collectively.

We must look to these shining moments of selfless service and uphold them as our standard. For in troubled times, these instances convey a point on which we can agree: Those who served should be remembered.

 

If you want to find out more about the National Adjutant, you can find his biography here.