A Grateful Nation
Standing at the top of a high hill in central Wisconsin, taking in the beauty of our forested state over the many sculptures and monuments that flow across the Highground Veteran’s Memorial Park, I could feel the sincere gratitude of the people that lovingly created and maintain the 155-acre “manned veteran’s memorial park that pays tribute to the dead, and honors the survivors, their service, and their sacrifices.” The mission of the park, to honor the sacrifice of military members and their families and educate visitors on the human cost of war without denying or glorifying the suffering of war, honors what I know of war as a veteran of Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Then I saw the banner.
I considered, is my nation really grateful.
Merriam-Webster defines grateful: an appreciation for benefits received.
Does America realize they have received benefits from my service? Do they appreciate benefits they believe they have received?
How would I know?
Why does it matter?
I served my country with devotion almost my entire adult life because I believed it was important to contribute and the military was my way.
Because, as a veteran, I have seen wars devastation up close, I would never wish that experience on anyone. I would like to see us put the war tool back in the national toolbox for good.
But, the soldiers I worked and deployed with were truly the best of what I see this country has to offer. They wanted to make a difference to someone other than themselves or immediate families every day.
I suppose it’s tempting to write off this capability for selfless service and to say that it’s extraordinary and not attainable for most.
I don’t believe it.
There’s probably only one way to jump start this commitment though: mandatory public service, but not exclusively a military option. There are hundreds of ways to serve; care of the elderly and children as two examples.
Wouldn’t that be something, internationally renowned as a public service nation.