Tuesday, November 11, 2014

How to Thank a Veteran: Do Your Duty

 How do you thank a Veteran?  We reflect on this more and more these days.  It seems that the whole nation has a sense of gratitude for our service.
One message of our service is that we had a sense of duty.  Duty- doing what we ought to do.  It's a simple concept, sometimes exacting a high price.  What ought we to do?
In military service, we may get a more direct opportunity (or many) to answer this question.
On one end of the spectrum is the cold answer:  Kill someone if necessary.  Another is to risk one's life for a comrade in arms, or a civilian, or a town. Sometimes, the choices overlap, sometimes they conflict.

I'm a Vietnam Veteran.  We had a confused mission at times.  Enable the South Vietnamese to defend themselves and become independent of North Vietnam- easy to understand.  Kill as many enemy as possible to get high body counts as a "quality" measure of warfare- harder to adjust to becoming a killer just for quality control.

Harder still if ordered to kill innocent bystanders by a confused commander, which happened at My Lai, a dark incident which cost many Vietnamese their lives and a few Army leaders their careers.  A helicopter pilot, Hugh Thompson,  saw what was happening and put himself and his helicopter between the "killers" and the "victims", risking his life to do what seemed right.  Military troops sometimes get in these situations suddenly and act quickly.  The rest is history.  Duty.

Many veterans refused to follow illegal commands in Vietnam.  Many followed the illegal orders.  Many careers ended suddenly.  The military duty seemed to conflict with the Human Duty.  What is right? Judgments over the years allow those individuals and situations to be clarified.  Some people have peace of mind because they did their Human Duty when confronted with the opportunity.  Duty calls our humanity to attention and to action.

Veterans often have stories to share of others doing their duty.  The stories don't include music in the background to make them more dramatic like many of the war movies.  .They tell of human decisions under duress.  The characters had flaws.  The situation wasn't clear, but the decision was.

You have opportunities to do your duty.  Honor a Veteran on  Veteran's Day by doing your Human Duty. Do what you ought to do.  Yes, align with your conscience.  Yes, it may mean quitting your job.  Sometimes that's the right thing to do.  If doing your job means harming people personally or financially, maybe it's time to quit.  God will know.

Thank a Veteran by Doing Your Duty!

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