Guest column: Veterans’ Day is for appreciating sacrifices of others

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 11, 2002

I know a young man who was recently called back into active duty in the U.S. Army Reserves.

As our president and national leaders debate the need for military action against Iraq, this young business man was ordered to upset his entire private life and return to duty &045; on the chance that America might need his service in the future.

The call came unexpectedly, in the form of a government certified letter, stuck between the bills and credit card offers that composed his ordinary pile of mail.

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From the moment he read and reread the order, he had two weeks to tie up his personal matters and move across the country to begin retraining for military duty. After a crash-course session ensuring he was physically fit and intellectually prepared to carry out his assignment, the letter informed this young man that he would be shipped to an undisclosed destination in the Persian Gulf for no less than one year.

Over the next two weeks, he quit a lucrative job, moved out of his home, sold or stored his belongings and said an uncertain goodbye to friends and family. Understanding that his future included few explanations and no ability to make his own decisions, this young man completely accepted his responsibility.

And he is only one of millions of Americans who have set aside their personal lives, their plans and relationships and safety, in order to protect fellow citizens they’ve never met, to carry out political decisions with which they may disagree, to ensure the liberty of a country they love.

This Veterans’ Day, I urge us all to think of one man or woman we know who has sacrificed everything we take for granted. Make this Veterans’ Day personal. Think of the fathers who will not see their children’s first step or graduation day because their country needs them to hold down a fort thousands of miles from home. Think of the daughters who will put weddings and families on hold in order to carry out missions on foreign soil.

Think of the young man I mentioned, whose life was completely redesigned in an instant, but who has never once complained.

For this young man &045; for every soldier that is serving or has served our country &045; inconvenience and sacrifice are taken in stride. And more than that, they give us the benefit of the doubt, assuming that we would all do the same if we were called.

It’s hard to say if we could all be so gracious, so generous with our lives. But this Veterans’ Day, we should be incredibly grateful that most of us will never have to find out &045; because of the bravery and selflessness of those who are willing to fight on our behalf.

This Veterans’ Day, I offer up my deepest thanks for those who carry more than their share of this country’s weight. Without your willingness to carry out the actions our great leaders deem necessary, we would be nothing.

Sen. Grace Schwab, R-Albert Lea, represents Freeborn and Mower counties in the Minnesota Senate.