Setting aside the politics of Veterans Day, setting down which side of the tracks you may be on, Veterans Day is a recognition of the profound effect the choice we do have in the United States to actually defend or not defend our country.
Veterans Day is simply a celebration of choices, maybe it is a celebration of the liberty to actually make a choice that our founding fathers fought and died to provide us.
So, as you listen to today's podcast, as you do your particular thing and express your self in the ways you have chosen, let me share from a veteran of war's point of view the choice to defend the country.
All who served come from the same diverse background and up-bringings as do all Americans. This point of reality is often missed in the rhetoric of media discourse. Vet's come from every nationality, both sexes, and all orientations. We are from broken and also strong families, rich and poor, some are orphans, so are from generations of veterans.
And in case you were not aware, all of us actually have to commit to defending the country on the very first day we enter the military. And I want to share with you that commitment, here is what we all had to say:
I, _Thom Shea_, 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."
From diverse backgrounds and thought processes we all start from a singular commitment to direct all of our activities to one purpose. The oath is a rather interesting point of reference because without expressed commitment, without choosing to sign that agreement, we would never have been able to join the diverse people into one team. The military is the greatest realization of diversity … it is called Team. I ask you to think about that as you look at and celebrate a Veteran, a Vet has already been on a diverse team of individuals who have found a way to unite at one team.
We all leave our basic trainings having to memorize a code. We all have to move from a diverse way of thinking and being into a particular way of being that has a code. We all live by this code and are judged by how we do live by it.
Then, we all are thrown into the soup of boot camp or Officer basic training. Each Vet you meet has this training in common. They had to learn to deal with each other day and night, through sickness, through countless pushups, and runs and classrooms, through rain and cold. They all had the learn to make their bed and do their laundry and clean their rooms. They had to find a way to help each other.
Sadly, not all people can tolerate being on a team. Those who cannot hack it so to speak, don't see the bigger picture of team work, rather they only focus on themselves. Each Veteran you know has chosen to set aside personal issues to be a part of a team. We all now have to learn and live by this code:
Code of Conduct
Members of the United States Armed Forces
I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.
I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist.
If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.
If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information or take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior, I will take command. If not, I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up in every way.
When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause.
I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.
Let that sink it my fellow Americans. Every Vet you meet has lives by that code.
Then the next thing that happens for all Vets is that they get trained to do a specific job to support War. I laugh at this notion in general from politicians or other citizens that the military shouldn't be training for War. Let's clear this up now, the only job the military has is to train each person to be extremely good at defending the United States using the skills of War.
The second oath or pledge I took was that of a care provider (a medic). I share this with you because most people who didn't serve don't realize we take several oaths to commit our life to serving. In the business community, or outside the military there are few oaths that hold up in court, except for the oath to your spouse.
My next pledge was this:
I SOLEMNLY PLEDGE MYSELF BEFORE GOD
AND THESE WITNESSES
TO PRACTICE FAITHFULLY
ALL OF MY DUTIES AS A MEMBER OF
THE HOSPITAL CORPS.
I HOLD THE CARE OF THE SICK AND INJURED TO BE A
AND WILL ASSIST THE MEDICAL OFFICER
WITH LOYALTY AND HONESTY.
I WILL NOT KNOWINGLY PERMIT HARM TO COME TO
I WILL NOT PARTAKE OF NOR ADMINISTER
ANY UNAUTHORIZED MEDICATION.
I WILL HOLD
ALL PERSONAL MATTERS
PERTAINING TO THE PRIVATE LIVES OF
PATIENTS IN STRICT CONFIDENCE.
I DEDICATE MY
HEART, MIND, AND STRENGTH
TO THE WORK BEFORE ME.
I SHALL DO ALL WITHIN MY POWER
TO SHOW IN MYSELF AN
EXAMPLE OF ALL THAT IS
HONORABLE AND GOOD
MY NAVAL CAREER.
All soldiers or sailors or marines or airman, then go about the delivery of those oaths. They go to their teams and practice, and train and prepare. They spend hours, days, and weeks, and months pre paring their selves, their teams, and their families to get better at the business of war. They go through loss, they feel elations, they get tired, they have stresses of money, and family and all the while they wonder if they will be good enough at their craft to defend the country and make it home. Bet you didn't realize that Vets are just like everyone else.
I however, had the privilege to take another oath. That of a SEAL. Again, all SEALs come from the most diverse backgrounds, all races and creeds, but they come together to be on a team. They come together to function as one mind. Through hardship that cannot be easily described, through pain and frustration, through years and years of honing their skills, they become one. And for some reason in the teams we don't see much value in celebrating diversity of the actions of people or their color or their choices, all that seems folly and gets in the way of honoring the team's ability to defend the country. However, real diversity is simply diverse thoughts and ways of looking at a problem that cause the team to be more powerful.
And again, as this podcast is about celebrating the Veterans life, I want to share the SEAL Creed with you. This is something all SEALs must memorize and live by and are held accountable to throughout their lives:
In times of war or uncertainty there is a special breed of warrior ready to answer our Nation's call. A common man with uncommon desire to succeed.
Forged by adversity, he stands alongside America's finest special operations forces to serve his country, the American people, and protect their way of life.
I am that man.
My Trident is a symbol of honor and heritage. Bestowed upon me by the heroes that have gone before, it embodies the trust of those I have sworn to protect. By wearing the Trident I accept the responsibility of my chosen profession and way of life. It is a privilege that I must earn every day.
My loyalty to Country and Team is beyond reproach. I humbly serve as a guardian to my fellow Americans always ready to defend those who are unable to defend themselves. I do not advertise the nature of my work, nor seek recognition for my actions. I voluntarily accept the inherent hazards of my profession, placing the welfare and security of others before my own.
I serve with honor on and off the battlefield. The ability to control my emotions and my actions, regardless of circumstance, sets me apart from other men.
Uncompromising integrity is my standard. My character and honor are steadfast. My word is my bond.
We expect to lead and be led. In the absence of orders I will take charge, lead my teammates and accomplish the mission. I lead by example in all situations.
I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. My Nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.
We demand discipline. We expect innovation. The lives of my teammates and the success of our mission depend on me – my technical skill, tactical proficiency, and attention to detail. My training is never complete.
We train for war and fight to win. I stand ready to bring the full spectrum of combat power to bear in order to achieve my mission and the goals established by my country. The execution of my duties will be swift and violent when required yet guided by the very principles that I serve to defend.
Brave men have fought and died building the proud tradition and feared reputation that I am bound to uphold. In the worst of conditions, the legacy of my teammates steadies my resolve and silently guides my every deed. I will not fail.
As you reflect on Veterans Day and the deeds of those who have gone before, understand that each of them has made solemn oaths and live by a code that represents the best in men and women, to defend the people.
Think about that today, and tomorrow and perhaps the rest of your life.
If you didn't serve, thank a Veteran this week for keeping your family safe.