At 11am today, members of each branch of our military gathered in Arlington National Cemetery at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to pay tribute those who have died in service to our country. Today, Veterans Day, commemorates the peace that ended World War I, but in the United States, it has come to reflect a time to honor all veterans of all wars our country has fought.
Our soldiers serve on the front lines in battle. They fight against those who threaten us and they sacrifice a great deal to do so. They fight to protect our way of life, our freedom, our democratic process. While our soldiers all have differing opinions about our country’s leaders and their ideas, they share a common belief that our nation and its democratic process is worth protecting. And yet those of us who are not on the front lines of combat can sometimes take our way of life for granted. We grow frustrated with our government when they don’t make decisions we agree with. We grow apathetic and don’t take the time to vote in elections because we are accustomed to the democratic process and don’t anticipate it changing anytime soon. And there are certainly reasons for disillusionment in our government. Stories of corruption and other scandals only make us more wary of those in power.
And yet our democracy isn’t something we should become apathetic towards or take for granted. All across the world, people live under repressive regimes where they truly have no influence over the decision-makers who control their lives, and they would give a great deal to have the right to vote and voice their opinions. Our men and women in uniform fight to make sure we keep these rights of expression and maintain the power to influence, at least in some small way, how our government is run. You won’t always be on the winning side, and decision-makers will continue to make decisions you don’t agree with. But if you don’t actively participate, actively look for ways to make your voice heard, you give up your right to complain about the way our country is being run.
So today, on Veterans Day, I challenge you to think about the issue or issues you truly care about and find some ways, small or large, to fight for them. Plan to call you Members of Congress and tell them what you think about a national issue. Write a letter to your state senator about a local issue that directly affects you. Set up meetings with your representatives either in your state or in Washington, DC. Things like this may seem small, but if more people participate in our legislative process in small ways, our government will, by its nature, be more responsive. While our small fights can in no way compare to our troops’ willingness to sacrifice everything, including their lives, in service to their country, they can be just as important. And advocating—fighting for what we believe in—is in itself a way to honor and remember the sacrifice and service of those who have faced battle and fought because they believed in our country, in our democracy, and in the power of an individuals to have a say in their government.