Veterans make out blank checks for any amount up to and including their lives

By Jim Willis, director, Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs November 06, 2010 05:00 am

“A veteran is a fellow citizen, an ordinary person who at one significant point in his or her life made out a blank check payable to the United States of America for any amount up to and including their life.” 

The author of these words is anonymous, but his or her understanding of the commitment made by our veterans is clear, concise and meaningful to anyone who ever wore the uniform of our armed forces.

These veterans took an oath on enlistment in which they said, “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

Our veterans swear this oath to neither king nor state.  Our men and women in uniform swear allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, a document encompassing the vision of liberty and the rule of free men under law — a radical concept for some, even today, but one that has kept America free and strong and a beacon of hope for people around the world for more than 200 years.

Our veterans’ bravery, their resourcefulness and their patriotism, mark them as America’s finest citizens, Americans who stepped out of the crowd and swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. They served under our flag and in allegiance to these words, for which some bled, and others died.

Some veterans count their service as the time when they were at their very best, and in some cases struggle to find that standard of service during the rest of their lives.  While still others count their time in the armed forces as the standard that set the principles, values and ethics that dictated how they would live the rest of their lives.

No matter how our honorably discharged veterans and their families were affected by their military service, the fact remains that they did not serve for glory, or power, or wealth — but for freedom. A simple recognition of service well performed — a sincere thank you — means more to most veterans than any other reward.

I wish all Oregonians a safe and rewarding Veterans Day 2010. And to all veterans, thank you for your service.