Friday was Veterans Day. I realize that many of us are still recovering from what feels like a nation-wide political hangover, but all this “F-America” and flag burning from our generation is disgustingly pathetic and extremely offensive to the courageous men and women Friday’s holiday is supposed to commemorate.
Less than one percent of our nation actually wears the uniform of the U.S. armed forces. The divide in our society between those who serve in our military and those who don’t is massive, and it’s only getting bigger. We live in a society that has come to value money, power and personal freedom over integrity, sacrifice and commitment (for an example, look no farther than the man we just elected to our nation’s highest office). As the Greek warrior-philosopher Thucydides once said, “Any nation that draws too great a distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools.”
During a time when dropping our professional pursuits to go “find ourselves”… is rapidly becoming the status quo … the concept of giving up our youthful years to work for Uncle Sam under military contract is an unenticing and even terrifying thought.
Thucydides’s words portray the civilian-military divide existing in America, where an increasing number of our political leaders and so-called “experts” don’t know what it’s like to wear body armor and carry a sidearm in hostile territory. These “scholars” in American leadership have no problem sending some of our nation’s finest into harm’s way without the proper equipment, proposing ridiculously impossible rules of engagement that put our soldiers’ lives at stake and then failing to help our veterans adjust to life after deployment. In fact, it’s very similar to the way we treat our law enforcement officers. This is a major problem, especially if we seek to remain the “land of the free” and “the home of the brave.”
During a time when dropping our professional pursuits to go “find ourselves” in foreign countries is rapidly becoming the status quo for post-grad millennials, the concept of giving up our youthful years to work for Uncle Sam under military contract is an unenticing and even terrifying thought. And hey, I’m not one to criticize, especially since I didn’t do it myself. As a former ROTC cadet, I can honestly say nothing has ever filled me with more fear than the concept of “signing my life away” as a 20-year-old college student, so I walked away from the army officer contract I had worked three hard years to earn.
Back then, I wasn’t ready to take the oath so many people our age around the United States take every single day; as someone who has stared hard at that life-binding piece of paper, I can say from experience it takes tremendous courage to sign your name on the dotted line. This is precisely why we need to take a step back to appreciate our fellow Americans in the armed forces; they do the tough job of putting their lives on hold to safeguard our national security so we don’t have to.
I’m not saying everyone should join the military. Rather, we must learn to better appreciate the ones who do. Burning the American flag — a symbol most of our entitled generation cannot even begin to understand or fully appreciate — is a direct slap in the face to our veterans.
So while you’re out there protesting the presidential election, don’t forget the significance of Nov. 11 and the sacrifices our veterans have made. If you come across one of the many veterans, guardsmen, reservists or ROTC cadets at UCSB, I also challenge you to thank them for their service (or the service they will do our country after graduating). They gave up their own freedom to do something special, so whatever their motivation was, let them know it’s appreciated.
Nik Frey hopes you thank a veteran the next time you see one.