Veterans Day 2021 – Stand Against Authoritarianism in Honor of the Sacrifices of our Veterans

Veterans Day 2021

I was honored to be asked to speak at the Legion Post today to our veterans and community in honor of Veterans Day. Here are my comments.

I would like to thank the Legion Post and the Auxiliary for giving me this opportunity, on behalf of the people of the City of Mequon, to say thank you to each of you and to all veterans. My words are likely insufficient to express the depth of the appreciation I have for your service.

People join one of the branches of the military for different reasons. In my own family, those reasons have ranged from the mundane – the need to grow up and gain a skill – to being drafted, to volunteering out of a sense of duty and patriotism.

Regardless of the initial motivation, each served to keep all of us free. So, today we celebrate all veterans. We owe a debt of gratitude for the sacrifices each of you has made.

Even serving in peacetime, you risked putting yourselves in harm’s way. This has never been a theoretical risk. Since April of 1775, when the first shots were fired in the Battles of Lexington and Concord, there have been over 90 declared wars and military interventions.

So, today we say thank you. Thank you for the time you served, the risk you undertook, the sacrifices you and your families made and, in some cases, the blood you spilled. Because you did that, we can live in a free and constitutional republic.

But, to be truly thankful, we need to live our lives in a way that upholds the ideals you sought to protect.

The majority of our country’s military actions have involved some resistance to or action against authoritarianism. Whether the enemies have been fascists or communists or terrorists, the powers America fought often were put in place through a populist revolt that eliminated freedoms and threatened to spread.

We must be vigilant to ensure the same thing does not happen in this country. Today, we face an unprecedented risk here at home from authoritarianism. That risk is posed both by some on the Right and some on the Left.

Some of our fellow citizens and elected leaders want to silence opposing views. They cultivate power by dividing our country. They marginalize people who are different. They practice cancel culture. They believe in crazy conspiracies and tell big lies. Facts do not matter. They refuse to recognize the legitimacy of elections. They undermine our courts and our Constitution. They are willing to discard the fundamental bases of our country. They replace the rule of law with populist rage.

If we truly respect you veterans and the sacrifices you made – if we truly want to say thank you – then we must do what we can to deserve those sacrifices. Like our military, we must “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

Although the darkness of authoritarianism has been creeping across our country, I am always an optimist. We Americans, even when tempted by the worst of our nature, ultimately recognize the beauty of this great experiment in Liberty we call the United States.

Fortunately, we have the inspiring examples of our veterans. Ronald Reagan recognized those examples when he said the following at a Veteran’s Day ceremony in 1998:

For too long a time, they stood in a chill wind, as if on a winter night’s watch. And in that night, their deeds spoke to us, but we knew them not. And their voices called to us, but we heard them not. Yet in this land that God has blessed, the dawn always at last follows the dark, and now morning has come. The night is over. We see these men and know them once again — and know how much we owe them, how much they’ve given us, and how much we can never fully repay. And not just as individuals but as a nation, we say we love you.

May we always recognize your deeds and hear your voices. Thank you for your service, and God Bless America.

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