It seems like every time I watch the news I hear people talking about “the top 1%.”
Maybe it’s time we talk about the less than 1%. The .4% to be exact.
Who are the .4%? The .4% are the most selfless men and women in our entire nation. Some are natural-born citizens and others are immigrants. They speak different languages, worship different gods, and come from different social classes. Some are well-educated and some barely finished high school. Together they miss birthdays and holidays, weddings and funerals. They miss the birth of their own children and milestones and countless moments they can never get back. Month after month, year after year, they sacrifice and serve. They go when they’re told to go and some of them never return home to their loved ones.
But they unite for a common cause and along the way they talk and they listen. They take time to really get to know one another. They come to appreciate the shared experiences that make them all remarkably human. And when duty calls, they stand shoulder-to-shoulder as brothers and sisters willing to lay down their lives for YOU and ME because none of their differences actually matter when it comes to the one thing they have in common: guaranteeing the freedoms granted to us by a hand-written document penned over 200 years ago.
According to data published by the Council on Foreign Relations, in 2018 .4% of the population of the entire United States of America was actively and voluntarily serving their country in some branch of the military.
In 2016 a survey reported by the Census Bureau indicated that the number of Americans with any military experience whatsoever had sharply declined. Their data showed that military veterans comprised a mere 7% of the entire population of the United States. This means that only 7% of all the people in our entire nation were either actively serving or had served at some point in their lives.
Of that 7% of men and women, some served by choice. They signed up. Volunteered. Made a conscious choice to sacrifice for the greater good. Others, like my father, were drafted. Their number was called and they didn’t make excuses. They didn’t duck or dodge or find a way out of it. They SERVED. And some of them, like my father, have never been the same. Some of them are STILL fighting. Fighting memories. Fighting nightmares. Fighting trauma. Fighting for their sobriety and their sanity.
Veteran’s Day is wonderful. It’s incredibly important that we set aside a specific time to honor and remember the service and sacrifices that others make on our behalf. I don’t intend to minimize the 10% discounts or the free meals or the countless “thank you for your service” comments. Those matter. They are important and deeply appreciated. But what if there was a way to honor our veterans BETTER?
What if we honored them in the way we served one another? What if we honored them in the way we listen to our neighbors who may have come from different countries or worship different gods? What if we looked at the examples set by the men and women who serve together and fight together and sometimes even die together and we learned to LIVE a little more like them? What if we stopped separating ourselves into 1%s and 10%s; into lower-class and higher-educated and liberal and conservative and whatever divisive categories we can dream up and we just saw ourselves as Americans?
As brothers and sisters?
What if we tried serving one another before we served ourselves? What if we all did as a very wise man once suggested and “put others first and view[ed] others as more important than [our]selves” (Philippians 2:3 TPT).
I’m so incredibly proud of my husband. He has served this country honorably for over 20 years. He enlisted in the United States Air Force at the age of 19. He has earned 3 degrees and worked his way up through the enlisted and officer ranks and his career is FAR from over. He has missed more things than I choose to remember because his presence blesses us far more than his absence has wounded us.
I am proud of all that he has sacrificed and all that he has accomplished but what I’m most proud of is the man he has become because of his service. Serving his county has changed him. Serving him (and indirectly serving my country) has changed me.
If you want to honor the .4%, find someone to serve.
If you want to honor the 7%, look around you. Find somewhere to serve.
And thank a veteran. Not just on Veteran’s Day, but every chance you get. Remind them that they are deeply loved and appreciated and admired and respected. Without their sacrifices we would undoubtedly cease to be the United States of America.
I love my veteran. And I’m honored to stand beside him and serve him as he serves others. He will always be my hero.