What makes me proud to be an American: The men and women of our uniformed services

A recent survey of U.S. Army members shows almost 50 percent of soldiers are unhappy in their service and more than half are pessimistic about the future of the military.

Such news quickly brings the “bad old days” of post-Vietnam America to mind.

Our fighting forces returned from Southeast Asia—many battling wounds of body, mind or both—to be greeted with jeers and name-calling. They risked their lives for us; we spit at them.

Not our best moment.

Both of us are proud to be Americans, and we want those in uniform to know these are not the “bad old days.” You make us proud.

One of us is a Vietnam veteran. One of us has the privilege of making and acting in films in a country where free expression is a sacred right, a right defended for us for more than 200 years.

Both of us are proud to be Americans, and we want those in uniform to know these are not the “bad old days.”

You make us proud.

The men and women in our uniformed services—and let us include first responders among those—quite simply are the best in the world at what they do. And each of us benefits from their excellence.

Theirs are professions full of risks—life-and-death risks—which they brave daily.

Why? For you and me.

There are more than a million men and women in the armed forces. More than a million police officers in our country. More than a million firefighters.

Every one of them is a volunteer. (More than 780,000 firefighters are unpaid volunteers.) Every one of them has chosen to selflessly serve to protect us, to protect our property, to defend our rights.

The pay is not great. The hours are worse. The “thanks?”

Well, have you been watching the news?

It’s enough to make you mad.

But let’s not get mad.

Let’s get proud.

We’ve made a film — "Faith of Our Fathers" — about two very different young men, enemies at first, coming together as they discover the bond their very different fathers forged under fire in Vietnam.

You see, we believe it’s possible for differences to meet hardship and emerge united . . . and stronger.

We are, after all, the United States. We are, after all, united as Americans.

And we are proud of it.

You don’t have to throw your chest out and beat it to show pride.

You don’t have to get loud or teary-eyed.

What you can do is quietly say, “Thanks,” to next person you see in uniform.

They makes us proud to be Americans.

Let’s let them know.