Veterans Day is next month. It is a day to honor the nearly 19 million individuals who have served in the US military. I’m reminded of a story General Eric Shinseki, the 34th Army Chief of Staff, told at a retirement ceremony about a year ago. He quoted a remark by the Commanding General (CG) of the Third Infantry Division about freedom and what it means. The CG said, “I know that when I die, I will die a free man, on my feet, not on my knees, and with my head up and not bowed to any other man.” And then the CG pointed East and said, “35 miles from here is a whole country that cannot say those words. And probably wouldn’t know what they meant even if they could.”
General Shinseki said, “It was a simple declaration of a free man and that the defiant demand for freedom never dies; it is timeless, and we witness the Ukrainians living out those words today.” What struck General Shinseki about the CG’s statement was that these words belong to all free men and women willing to fight for freedom and liberty.
This is a bit of a play on General Shinseki’s observation, but the WWII Nisei soldier and veterans who have followed in their footsteps have enabled their children and grandchildren to declare themselves free. Only those who have fought for freedom and liberty can bequeath those gifts to others. And the fight is not just for those wearing the uniform.
So, on November 11th, thank the veteran in your family. Thank the ones you come across in your community, and those within your circle of friends. Thank them for bequeathing the gift of freedom and liberty.