Fort Report: Veterans Day

Nov 9, 2018
Fort Report

This past August, at a town hall in Norfolk, an older gentleman raised his hand.  After he rose from his seat with difficulty, I asked him whether he was a veteran and of what war.  He said he served in World War II and Korea.  Although I do not remember his question, I cannot forget the feeling of the encounter.

As the Greatest Generation recedes further into our memory, it is deeply humbling and gratifying to see veterans like this man engaged in the civic life of their local communities and our nation.  Soon enough, with the passing of time, we will lose our last living links to pivotal wars in our nation’s history: severe, brutal conflicts when our men and women in uniform sacrificed to save the world from tyranny.  As the great Jewish scholar, Jacob Neusner, once wrote: 

Civilization hangs suspended from generation to generation, by the gossamer strand of memory. If only one cohort of mothers and fathers fails to convey to its children what it has learned from its parents, then the great chain of learning and wisdom snaps. If the guardians of human knowledge stumble only one time, in their fall collapses the whole edifice of knowledge and understanding.”

Amidst the loud national political conversation, it can be easy to forget quiet little moments like the veteran who participated in the Norfolk town hall.  But we must carry his legacy forward.  On Monday, we will pause for a moment to say “thank you” to our veterans.  Veterans Day is a time to gather in gratitude, and reflect on our common bond, our narrative as a people, and our shared notion of nationhood.  In so doing, we find our unifying principles.

Support for our veterans must remain at the forefront of our efforts in Washington.  One example of real progress is Lincoln’s historic Veterans Affairs (VA) campus, which has been chosen as the location for a new state-of-the art VA clinic.  This is an important victory for the economic regeneration of a unique historic property.  It arrives on the heels of a similarly successful public-private partnership to expand, improve, and innovate at the Omaha VA Medical Center.  Nebraska continues to inspire the nation with creative public-private partnerships to assist our veterans. 

Another project that I hope to pursue shortly involves an unfolding opportunity with the international community to create an historic center at the site of our D-Day battles in Normandy.  A new institute could reestablish for the 21st century a renewed understanding of the pivotal battle and its consequences for the war and the institutions that emerged afterwards.  

The spirit of selflessness that lives on in so many of our veterans—and the military men and women serving our nation today—reveals America’s inherent nobility.  They gave and continue to give—for one simple reason: it is their duty.  Veterans Day is a reminder of the shared sacrifices that are needed to keep what we value.  And it is a reminder to thank the men and women who keep the world safe and our nation strong.

Politics ebbs and flows.  Majorities become minorities and minorities become majorities. Yet some things remain constant, some things endure, and some things unite.  On Veterans Day, we remember that humble veteran at a town hall in Norfolk and the millions of others who fought valiantly in lands far from home—for our security, for our values, and for the nation we hold dear.