For the most part, Americans are grateful for the service and sacrifice of their country’s veterans and active duty members. History shows that wars -- popular or not, are not chosen by the men and women in uniform, just fought by them.
As I travel the country, I have witnessed our returning troops and veterans treated with dignified respect.
On this Veteran’s Day weekend, as we thank, honor and remember our veterans, we should also pause to consider why our veterans even went to battle. They risked their lives, and many died, for one important reason: They believed in their country.
As a veteran, I hope Americans will also consider, what do they want our country to be. What should be our cornerstones and core values?
We used to say, “For God and country,” with a lot of patriotism tossed in for good measure. This was evidenced in the classroom with students saying a prayer and pledging allegiance to the flag.
I believe the countless veterans who fought and died, did so for that American creed. Our founding fathers also believed in God and Country when they built the foundation of a new nation.
The saying goes; “There are no atheists in foxholes.” How true are those words the moment you are being shot at. Until the bullets fly, you are blissfully unaware of your mortality and the extreme danger of the job you signed up for. No one serves for the money.
I will argue that many who serve have a strong sense of love of country and countrymen. “Greater love hath no man than he lay down his life for a friend.” For those who have not been in harm’s way, perhaps it is merely a quotation, just words. But, to the veteran it is a never-ending reminder of “why” we undertake military service.
It may be a cliché or even jingoistic to say how fortunate we are to be Americans. I have traveled the world and can say unabashedly that we are blessed to live in the greatest country on Earth. No one deserves to be born American. We are blessed in ways we do not even realize.
On this Veteran’s Day weekend, I encourage Americans to spend some time to reflect on our veterans, regardless if they volunteered or were drafted. And to remember, they did their duty with one constant thought: To get home alive, to the country they love.
Having been in some very bad places, under very bad circumstances, has given me a profound love of my country. I wish I could instill that sentiment in all of my countrymen.
Despite the criticism and sometimes ill will tossed upon us, most of the world sees the United States as a beacon of light and a liberator of the oppressed.
Still today, America and her military are routinely called on to help countries with their natural disaster relief efforts.
America has been, and will continue to be the first country mobilized and on the ground when the need arises, anywhere on this Earth.
We have our faults and imperfections, yet America rises above it all due to our core values.
I pray and hope our values are maintained so that my family and those who follow, long after I am gone, will believe in their hearts and souls that this country is worth fighting for, as I and all the other veterans have felt.
Howard Wasdin is a former member of SEAL Team Six who was wounded in the Battle of Mogadishu, made famous in "Black Hawk Down." Wasdin was subsequently awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action and a Purple Heart. He is the author of the new book, "The Last Rescue: How Faith and Love Saved a Navy SEAL Sniper."