Politics is innately controversial for veterans and civilians alike, but military service itself is not about politics. Since the United States evolved into a nation that fought Great Britain for independence, people have been choosing to sacrifice for their country, regardless of what party the president represented.
As the presidential election grows closer, I want service members to remember that it's only because of you that we even get the chance to vote. I want you to be proud of what you've done to preserve America's freedoms. It doesn't matter which party you represent, or who you think is the better candidate to lead America. You aren't thanked enough, you aren't honored enough, and you aren't respected enough, but that doesn't mean we've all forgotten what you've given up.
Civilians may never understand what it means to be a service member, but I do. You've lost family and friends. You've given up walking, vision or hearing — maybe all three. You've even paid the ultimate sacrifice by paying the nation's debt with your lives.
I want you to know that it wasn't for nothing, and that it wasn't for a politician, it was for America and her citizens.
The act of serving has very little to do with any particular war or politician, it has everything to do with your willingness to sacrifice whatever it took to defend our nation. So whether you stormed the beaches of Normandy, stood your ground at the Pusan Perimeter, walked through the Agent Orange-soaked jungles of Vietnam or baked on the sand in Iraq, you did it because you were protecting America and all of the freedoms that we hold so dear — especially the right to vote.
Volunteering is a statement that says you’re willing to put aside your political stance and serve in whatever capacity is needed to defend the nation. If you believe that American democracy is valuable, no matter its deficiencies, then the act of your volunteering, your sacrifice, is the most priceless gift that you could give to your country.
You volunteered not knowing what comes next, hoping that you'd make it through your service in one piece. This is what it means to serve a country. No political stance or agenda is required for what we believe in. Nothing more than the chance to protect the freedoms of American people. Above all, remember that the very act of voting is because of you, and I'm very thankful for that extra bit of democracy.
I know that there will be few politicians to ever give what you've given, but if they would we’d have one hell of a nation.