Veterans Day 2011 – “Earn This”

By Rob “Waldo” Waldman, Lt. Col., CSP

Two nights ago I watched Saving Private Ryan. It wasn’t easy. Watching war movies for me never is. But I felt compelled to do so as a personal way to reflect on the meaning of Veterans Day and pay homage to our veterans.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, the movie is an emotional and graphic depiction of WWII with a message that delves deeper than the horror of war. The main character, Captain Miller, played by Tom Hanks, dies in the final battle and his last words to Private Ryan (played by Matt Damon) are “earn this.” The movie ends with Ryan (as an older man) visiting the grave of Miller at Omaha Beach (with his wife and grandkids) reflecting on his life.

“Earn this.” Those words really impacted me.

“This” being the sacrifice. “This” being the tragedy and misery of war …the fact that others died not only so that Ryan could return home alive, but so that we as a country could remain free.

I thought to myself, if I were Ryan, could I look back on my life and honestly say, “I’ve earned this.” Could I reflect on the actions of my day, year or life, and be worthy of the sacrifices of those who fought for me and my country?

So, as we celebrate this Veterans Day, we need to think about what we have done with the peace that our veterans fought and died for. Are we truly deserving of this tremendous gift? More importantly, how can we honor those who died by how we live?

Patriotism and honoring our veterans is more than just waving a flag, attending a Veterans Day ceremony, or giving to a veteran related charity. It’s about how we live our lives. It ‘s how we serve in our communities, support our families, and deal with our co-workers. It’s in the everyday things we do…behind the scenes…that no one ever sees. This is how we can truly “earn this.”

If we want to thank the veterans who have fought for our country, the best way to do so is by being type of Americans worth fighting for.

Today, and every day, I’m proud to be an American.


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