The BLOG: Voices

Honoring veterans and remembering why we need to be patriotic

The Veterans Memorial in Concord, Mass. (Lauren E. Forcucci)

The Veterans Memorial in Concord, Mass. (Lauren E. Forcucci)

On Veterans Day, like many, I was reminded of why our veterans and our nation are so great. My great-grandfather used to joke that he was too young for World War I and too old for WWII. Yet, both my uncle and grandfather were veterans of WWII and were impacted in very different ways.

I recall fondly the time spent with my grandfather and what he instilled in me regarding how to remember our veterans. Each Veterans Day, I would go with him to visit many grave sites. Along the way he would instruct me in assisting him on how best to prune the overgrowth on the graves that were left unmaintained. We would straighten flags and water plants — all in an effort to keep a memory alive.

While for some this might seem tedious, it taught me much about my grandfather and how to regard our veterans. I know that it was my grandfather’s love and admiration for his fellow brothers, even those whom he never met, that inspired me. He would encourage me to think of these men and women and do what we can to support them. This always stayed with me, even today. On Veterans Day, he would remark that we need to care for our troops and acknowledge all that they have done and continue to do for our country; a true patriot. My grandfather’s respect for our country and patriotism rubbed off onto me and taught me the values of devotion that I regard and hold dearly. But what is this sense of patriotism, and why on Veterans Day and beyond should we reflect?

We live in a country that is great in ways that oftentimes are overlooked because we are blinded by so much negativity. Have we forgotten that we have the ability to be economically successful and mobile, climbing as high on the success ladder as we choose as long as we are committed to hard work? In America, we worship freely since religious liberty allows us to decide how and where we pray. We are able to say and do what we desire at any given moment. We dress the way we want, make statements about politics openly and debate freely about anything from coffee cups, to race and wages. Why? Because in America, we are free. Veterans such as my grandfather and uncle fought to keep freedom alive for their generation and ours; just as our current soldiers fight to keep freedom and liberty alive and hopefully spread it to other nations. This is why we need to be patriotic not only on Veterans Day, but always.

Patriotism is not just an expression of our flag and nationalistic fervor. Rather, patriotism more broadly is about unity. We must proudly stand together, even amidst the chaos and uncertainty, to remember our veterans and those who currently serve. They, the defenders of freedom and liberty and the guardians of our country, provide us with the security and strength to maintain our standing in the world. It is because of them that we are able to boldly stand tall against threats and know that someone in camouflage is always ready to face terror and war to safeguard our homeland. But patriotism comes in many other forms. It is about our expression of admiration for those who protect and serve our country and what we do to nurture these values.

The understanding and respect for what America embodies is a necessary part of our lives. As Americans, I believe we should express our patriotism, not because we are forced to, but because we want to and because we witness daily how liberty, justice and freedom allow us to be who we are and say what we want. We have much to be proud of locally and nationally.

Regardless of what is transpiring around us, we live in a country that is free, and lends itself to endless opportunity and possibility. Being patriotic means that we express and respect these values that we are blessed to live with daily. And while Veterans Day has passed, it is vital that we help our veterans and soldiers and do what we can to assist them while fighting abroad or when they return home. Those who so willingly answered the call to defend our country and those who continue to do so are the ones we must uphold our patriotism for and say thank you to for supporting and defending our country and us. And so, as we look forward to the next holiday season, we should keep them in mind and aim to give of ourselves to assist them, as they have and continue to do for us.