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The meaning of Veterans Day

Friday, November 11th, 2011

Leon Kass, AEI scholar and editor of What So Proudly We Hail, discusses the history and significance of Veterans Day in today’s online Weekly Standard. Changing attitudes toward veterans and military service have affected the way we mark the holiday throughout the years, but Americans today face a particular challenge observing the holiday. Kass writes:

Much more worrisome than the division about the current wars—and much more damaging to the proper celebration of this or any future Veterans Day—is the demographic and socio-cultural division between the less than 1 percent that does the fighting and the 99 percent that enjoy the benefits of peace and prosperity safeguarded by those who protect and serve. Not only do the 99 percent not serve; many among them, particularly among the privileged elite, do not personally know anyone who  does. (The absence of ROTC on many elite college campuses contributes much to this divide.) And while veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan receive more respect and consideration from post-9/11 America than did veterans who returned from Vietnam to an ungrateful country, it remains to be seen whether we can properly honor their service.

How can we better honor our veterans? Kass suggests that we turn to Lt. Gen. John F. Kelly’s remarkable Veterans Day speech to the Semper Fi Society to understand how veterans themselves “see their appointed service: they are standing guard, and pursuing our enemies, and braving danger to fulfill their sworn duty to protect us and our American way of life….No amount of compassionate aftercare can undo the dishonor we do to our veterans when we look upon the wounded and the fallen among them as ‘victims.’”

Here at the Program on American Citizenship, we thank our brave men and women in uniform, past and present, for their sacrifices for our country and our way of life. A happy Veterans Day to all those who have served.

AEI