World War I was first called “The Great War” because we didn’t know there would be another world war 20 years later. After the Great War, America established Armistice Day to honor our soldiers. After WWII and the Korean War, Armistice Day was changed to Veterans Day to honor all the soldiers in all our wars.
America is exceptional
There has never been another country like ours. Other countries are formed around geography or ethnicity, but we were formed around the ideals of freedom, “inalienable” rights that cannot be taken away, and egalitarianism (all people are created equal).
No matter where you come from, you can be an American if you uphold our ideals. No matter who you are or what circumstances you’re born into, you are free to rise above them.
America began with a war
We fought for our freedom, and we are the freest country on earth. We fought for our freedom from England, and freedom has always been our highest ideal. The men who fought in the American Revolution were ordinary people like farmers and store owners and blacksmiths. They used their own guns and most didn’t have uniforms, but they were all willing to risk their lives to make us free.
There are countries where it’s illegal to hold a meeting, or form a political party, or go on websites that aren’t approved by the government. Some countries make people vote. In our country, we can decide all of the above for ourselves without fear of being harmed or jailed.
No one has freedom of speech like we do. In some countries, it is illegal to criticize the leader or to insult someone or deliberately cause them distress. In our country, the First Amendment protects even the meanest things a person can say. It has to be that way because it doesn’t work for the people in power to decide what the rest of us can and cannot say. The only thing that’s fair is free speech for all.
Hundreds of thousands of soldiers have risked death to defend our freedoms. One of our most patriotic songs (Battle Hymn of the Republic) says soldiers “die to make men free.”
America is something to be very, very proud of
We have a lot of flaws, and we’ve done some terrible things, but when we know better, we do better. We practiced slavery for 90 years, but we figured out that it was wrong and abolished it. The rest of the world practiced slavery for thousands of years, and most of the world continued to practice slavery even after we stopped. The fact that every person in our society is entitled to the same civil rights is such a given that we take it for granted.
The best of the best of our young people enlist
When we honor veterans, we are honoring the best Americans. Some soldiers volunteer and some were drafted, but they all leave their homes and families to risk their lives for the rest of us. They serve with integrity and honor. When a soldier is injured or killed on the battlefield, the rest of his unit never leaves him behind. We always stick together.
Nobody is as brave as our soldiers. In WWII, thousands of young men stormed the beaches in Normandy, France, where they ran into open gunfire, knowing they would probably die and many did. Europe is free because of the sacrifices American soldiers made in WWII.
Veterans need and deserve understanding and support
A lot of veterans come home with wounds on the inside that they get because war is terrifying and they experienced awful things. Maybe they had to kill the enemy. Maybe one of their friends was killed by the enemy. They may never talk about it, but it can be very hard for them to heal inside wounds and readjust to our easy life here.
The next time you see a soldier, be sure to thank him for the sacrifice he made. If you have a soldier in your family, write a personal thank you from your heart.