In President Kennedy’s inaugural address, he famously challenged Americans to, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
In point of fact, the Founding Fathers intended to create a country where neither were necessary.
America was built on the ideals of self-sufficiency and what Ayn Rand characterized as “rational self-interest.” In the abstract, society owes us nothing and we owe society nothing but our promise to respect the same freedom of others that we demand for ourselves.
The problem with this calculation is that it assumes everyone — and every nation — will accept the same bargain. They won’t.
The world is full of despots who have no reservations about enslaving individuals and entire countries in the pursuit of their ir-rational self-interest, and only if we are protected from their oppression can we hope to exercise the liberty God endowed and the Founders enumerated.
For this we need a strong and committed military. And in order for there to be a military, there need to be patriots willing and able to accept the sacrifices of service and the reality that their voluntary gesture all too often requires one to lay down his or her very life.
On Veterans Day, we honor those who have made such a decision.
Military service isn’t mandatory in this country — nor should it be. Except in the most dire emergency, our ideals are best defended by a smaller, totally unified force of highly trained professionals who understand going in what the job entails.
Make no mistake: The debt we owe to those willing to accept this awesome bargain on our behalf is more than a paycheck and a handful of meager benefits.
We owe them, too, our eternal gratitude for safeguarding the freedoms without which the life to which we are entitled is not possible.
Once a year, on Memorial Day, we pay tribute to Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice in that effort. But on Veterans Day, it’s fitting and proper we honor, as well, those who freely made the choice to put themselves in harm’s but by God’s grace weren’t chosen.
Regardless of their branch of service, where duty takes them or whether they serve in peacetime or conflict, all who wear the uniform of this country know full well that liberty comes at a heavy cost.
Today — and every day — the Freedom Foundation can only express its heartfelt gratitude that there have always been, and always will be, those proud to unselfishly pay it.