Military service has been a tradition in my family for at least the past 150 years. As a family with international roots, many of us have answered a call to US military and foreign military service. I am a Navy veteran, my brother was an Army veteran, my father an Air Force veteran, my uncle a Royal Australian Air Force veteran, my grandfather a British Royal Army veteran, one great-grandfather was a Maltese Army veteran and the other was a US Civil War veteran.
Military service has long been considered a noble occupation – one in which individuals are willing to give their lives in service to their country. It might surprise you to know, however, that many military veterans, like myself, have never believed in war or violence as a solution to resolving differences. It is not an attraction or belief in war or violence that has called so many into military service, but rather, a longingness to answer to a higher calling – one that asks them to willingly sacrifice themselves, if necessary, for the greater good of others. This form of commitment and sacrifice applies also to police officers and firefighters and 1st responders.
But there is yet another form of service that often goes unrecognized, and very often involves a willingness to take personal risks for the good of others. It involves the sacrifices that occur each day by decent, caring, empathetic human beings simply noticing and responding to the needs of others – the mothers and fathers who sacrifice everything for their children…..the kindness shown by those in medical professions to those who are suffering and in pain and are dying…..the teachers who make an important connection for a child that will have an impact on them for the rest of their life…..the friend or stranger who simply listens or smiles or reaches out to another so that that person feels acknowledged and respected and supported…..the employee willing to speak up when witnessing corrupt or illegal or harmful activity occurring in the workplace…..the politician speaking out on behalf of and fighting for the voiceless and discarded in society and changing laws to benefit those in need….. the activists willing to become human shields or voices for injustice…..the victims of hate crimes and sex crimes and racial tensions and gun violence who continue to remind us that we are at risk of losing our humanity and need to be paying more attention to loving and caring for and respecting one another. The truth is, there are many, many people answering a higher calling to give of themselves for the greater good of others. They often don’t see themselves as fulfilling such a role, and they often remain invisible to us. They are living lives of service. Their actions don’t arise from a desire for more money or more recognition or more power. They simply see the light in another human being and they respond to it.
This coming Veteran’s Day, we honor those who have served in uniform in military service to our country. Perhaps in doing so, we may also continue to be reminded that all service to a greater good.….all service to others (rather than simply to oneself)…..is something we should all be striving for as individuals and as a country.