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November 10, 2016

Pushing for New Meaning on Veterans Day: A Call for Unity

By Joe Jenkins

After a particularly divisive election season, vitriol seems to have spread to every corner of the nation, driving a wedge into the heart of our society. In the face of this division, veterans across the nation are taking to the airwaves, urging Americans to commemorate Veterans Day differently this year. Instead of expressing gratitude or offering accolades, we are asking for something wholly different. We’re asking that we come together as a nation.

In a new video released by Human Rights First, I, along with a non-partisan group of vets are speaking up, telling America that the very values that drove us to put on the uniform are not ours alone—they are every American’s.

While service members make up less than one percent of the country, we are as diverse as the country itself. And it is in that diversity that we have found the strength of common purpose, for each of us, no matter our race, gender, or creed, has taken up the civic responsibility of defending the common good.

This Veterans Day we are showing that this responsibility doesn’t end after we take off the uniform. “When we signed up to serve, we put aside our personal beliefs, opinions, and ideologies, taking an oath to defend the ideals enshrined in the Constitution,” we say. “We must unite around these shared national values.” Fundamentally, we have always been a nation that respects the rights of all Americans, regardless of the color of their skin, the religion the practice, or whether they are a man or woman. We are citizens of a proud nation that is committed to extending the gift of liberty to all who seek it, including refugees. Above all, we reject fear and we embrace hope.

But veterans aren’t exactly superheroes. We cannot ask the country to agree on every matter or point of contention that it faces. But as veterans, we know the overwhelming power of what a united America can do when guided by shared ideals. It happened in the second world war. It happened during the fight for civil rights. It happened after 9/11. It will happen again.

As we all enjoy a time of fellowship this Veteran’s Day, we appreciate your gratitude for our service, but we ask you to heed our words. Consider joining with us and saying in one unified voice, “Our ideals about liberty and justice make us a beacon to the world. Our united, unwavering commitment to these ideals keeps us free. We are one nation, indivisible.”

Say it as a promise, because we are one America, and we need to remember that.