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November 11, 2022 //  //       //  Opinion

A Reflection on Veterans Day

It has been a decade since I last stepped off the planereturning from Southwest Asia on what would be my last trip to the region as a warfighter. Yet, the images, smelland sounds remain vividly etched into my memory, and these experiences have shaped me and many others who answered the call to serve.

Every year Americans enter November with Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the excitement of the holidays on their minds. We look forward to seeing old friends, spending time with family and having a much-needed break from the workplace.

The major sports leagues adopt military themes for their November “Salute to Service” uniforms. Broadcasters mention service to the country as they opine on the current state of the game and the events of the day. In addition, they showcase military members past and present on the field and tell stories of American exceptionalism.

Major brands run specials, offering discounts and free services in what seems to be an exchange for the time given to the country – somehow transforming the day of recognition into a retail event. It is uniquely American. 

Veterans Day has always been a day that we honor all service. Frequently I am thanked for my service. But, for many veterans and me, it is an awkward experience. For some reason, it makes most veterans uneasy as they try to find the words to respond. Something about answering that question feels wrong no matter what the response.

This feeling comes from the deep-rooted values instilled in veterans through their service to the country that have given them all the opportunities we have today. The value deeply rooted in veterans and immediately influences that feeling is selfless service. Since transitioning from military to civilian life, I have attempted to tackle this feeling. But, unfortunately, to this day, I do not have a good response.

In my opinion, the best way to honor the service and sacrifice veterans have made is to exercise the Constitutional rights afforded to each of us. Embrace these rights. Vote. Get involved in the issues and organizations that capture your passion. Give back to the people and things you value. Embrace your freedom of speech and exercise tolerance for those that don’t share your point of view. Show consideration for others and empathy for the people and things we might not understand. And, most importantly, spend time with your family and loved ones.

America is the greatest country in the history of the world to advance the cause of individual liberty, and our country continues to inspire hope in millions across the globe. Yet, I continue to be amazed every day. I think back to the 17-year-old version of me who volunteered to defend our nation and can say without hesitation that I would do it all over again.

I am not alone in this belief. It is a common thread woven through 18 million veterans in the United States today.

So, on Nov. 11, 2022, reflect and be proud of your friends, family and fellow Americans who have made that voluntary sacrifice to ensure we can enjoy the freedoms we have today. We are not a perfect society, but constantly pursuing and evolving to achieve perfection makes us unique.

As Bob Dylan said, “A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his [or her] freedom.”

Happy Veterans Day!

Josh Kroon is Executive Vice President of the Global Reputation Risk + Public Affairs team based in Washington D.C. He focuses on all things reputation, crisis, issues management and public affairs.

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