On this day, I always don’t know what to do. People email me or text or say “Thank you for your service.” I’ve never understood how I should respond – “You’re welcome” seems arrogant. “I really didn’t do much” seems to discount their gratitude. “Thank you for your kind words” is all I can really utter.
Yesterday, my best friend and I spoke at our sons’ school about service -about the duties a free society requires, about the discomfort during training and deployments, about what sacrifice really means. We displayed our Marine Corps uniforms tailored to our much younger, thinner selves, and we talked about standing up to protect others, to give to something much larger than ourselves, to recognize we are much stronger together than we are as individuals.
After my buddy and I spoke, I returned home to wait for a service call from my city’s water department. Earlier in the week, a leak had sprung from a pipe underground, and water had flooded the alley behind my house. By 10:30 am, three different technicians came to work on the pipe to fix it.
I thought again about service. Throughout the world, military men and women far away from their families perform tasks ranging from mundane to dangerous. The old heroes bare incredible wounds, external and internal, and families grieve every day for those killed on the battlefield. Some died 60 hours ago; others 60 years. The pain never ceases.
So, as these utility workers dug through the alley, I realized the veteran and the civil servant had much in common. The soldier in the tank, the sailor on a submarine, the mechanic turning wrenches on an Air Force bomber, and the Marine driving the re-supply truck defend the document that allows us to live in a free society, a society where I can drink clean water thanks to the men working on that pipe. A society, flawed in many ways, but free to live in relative safety, to have laws, to argue with one another and share common ideals.
Sure, we have our problems, and we won’t solve them anytime soon. But, we also have a nation of people willing to do the work that allows us to prosper, those many people willing to serve the common good. Ones who will dig a fighting hole, and ones who will fix a leaky pipe. Ones who will deliver the mail, and ones who will teach our children. And all in service to the greatest human endeavor ever: freedom.
Thank you for reading, and thank you to all who serve our nation.