To be good, and to do good, one also must often be strong. To truly be strong, one must be good. There is no higher calling than to serve others – with both the heart and the fist/sword/gun. It is not enough to simply love others; we also must protect and provide for them – especially when they may not be able to do so themselves on their own.
It is also not enough to simply thank those (few) who serve (us all) – especially those who may no longer be able to in the same way(s). The injured (and even the dead) – who may never again rejoin former comrades nor be able to serve in the same capacity they once did – must not only be thanked but also be told that they are (still) needed, asked how they can still serve, and helped to do so. The greatest service society can provide for those who serve society is to make it possible for them to continue to do so.
Questions that begin with HOW are often the most empowering. Rather than asking IF we can help or serve, we ought to ask (ourselves and others) HOW we can. It need not even be “best” or “most” – although those are certainly worth considering and doing when possible. What matters most is just being willing to help and serve – and to actually do so (in whatever times, ways, and amounts we can – that those served need, will accept, and benefit from).
Military service is not the only form of service, but is often the most selfless – and, sadly, necessary – to ensure other forms of [(inter)national, community, personal, customer] service, and often survival itself, are possible. To care FOR others with action matters more than simply caring ABOUT others with emotions. Many who serve in the armed forces care – in both senses of the word – far more than most they serve who do not may realize. It is vitally important that those who do not serve also care for and about those who do.
The United States does not require compulsory service (of any kind) and military service is voluntary. Less than 1% of the population is currently serving in the armed forces and only around 10% of the entire population are military veterans. It is important to not glamorize, romanticize, or idolize the military (or any of the organizations, agencies, and individuals providing civilian emergency medical care, fire, police, search and rescue, or any other services, no matter how essential – including, but certainly not limited to, education, sanitation, transportation, and especially food production) or to regard all who serve as heroes – but it is even more important to recognize, acknowledge, and honor the individual and collective character, contribution, and cost of those so often selflessly serving and sacrificing (sometimes their lives themselves) for society as a whole rather than only for loved ones.
Please do not just say “thank you” to be politically correct – or because it might make you or anyone else feel better. Also please do not refuse to say “thank you” because of disagreement about the nature of anyone’s service and/or what may have been required of them. Even when policy is bad, the willingness to serve and try to make a difference is always good. This is what must be most appreciated, honored, and encouraged. The mission continues.
There are many men and women (children and animals, tress and plants, and even aspects of the planet’s ability to support life) in harm’s way. People often associate war with death and destruction but forget that militaries also (fight to) protect and preserve and provide whatever may be needed (in both peace and war). Rather than focusing on the very (evil) few who provoke and perpetuate war (far too often for personal power and profit), we need to pay far more attention to the many (who are still far too few) “warriors” willing to put themselves at risk for what they believe is right and do whatever is asked or needed of them to serve society and help make the world better – for all.
Not all wounds are visible. The worst wound of all is not physical; it is feeling unwanted, unneeded, and unable to continue to contribute. If giving is really better than receiving, then we must accept and appreciate what others offer – and encourage them to share (what often only they can). To not receive is to reject. Those we can least “afford” to reject, ignore, or discard, are those who have served in the past – who are still capable of and would benefit most from serving more – in some way, regardless of their current condition or circumstance. Nothing is worse than being regarded as “unserviceable”.
The best thanks someone can receive is our acceptance, appreciation, and encouragement to continue to contribute, to assist them to do so, and to join them in doing so ourselves. Not everyone can, will, or should serve in the military, nor would doing so be ideal, but we can all serve somehow.
That’s my perspective. What’s yours?
© 2012, Oren Pardes. All rights reserved.