Gen. Keith Kellogg: Veterans can remind us of how to love our country, again

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America reserves two days to honor those who have served in our armed forces, Veterans Day and Memorial Day. Two different days with two different meanings.

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance—a time to express respect and sorrow for those that gave the last full measure of devotion for our Nation. The other, Veterans Day, is one of admiration—an opportunity to demonstrate respect by those who have not served and a moment to indulge in pride for those of us who have.

For myself, my service spanned decades, multiple armed engagements, and untold memories across all seven continents. I am not alone. Our veterans served on frozen mountains in Korea and humid jungles in Vietnam, they won World War II and the Cold War.

Veterans Day is an opportunity to demonstrate respect by those who have not served and a moment to indulge in pride for those of us who have.

We’ve fought America’s longest war in Afghanistan and battled in Iraq, Syria and Panama, and fought in skirmishes never to be found in the pages of America’s history. There was service in lands many cannot find on a map, in military operations long faded and battles forgotten to all those except those who waged them.

No matter the call to arms, we strove to uphold an oath of loyalty to the American people and, by living it, kept the barbarians from the gate in the darkest and longest of nights. We fought far from home in foreign lands under our flag which served as a beacon of hope to all.

Today, veterans may silently ride beside you on a bus or subway, shop at the same store or worship in the same church. Unfortunately, in that silence a gulf has begun to form. What used to be an obligation of citizenship and an experience widely shared, service has been relegated to an extremely small number of people. Our active component is about one percent of our population and our veterans make up roughly seven percent, roughly 17 million alive today.

So, while this Veterans Day should be one of celebration, it should be done with a measure of caution. As Ronald Reagan famously reminded us, "freedom is never more than one generation from extinction." As anti-American sentiment rises within our own borders, I urge our veterans to get involved and not sit idly by.

Veterans bring credibility. They have been in the arena of service and some have sacrificed greatly for this Nation. But all, knowing the cost, still believed the cause of their service was just.

We need our veterans as volunteers, teachers, and advocates. We need them sharing their stories of service and sacrifice. We are not a perfect nation but in each one’s service there are moments of perfect recognition that our nation, and our people, are worth fighting and dying for.

This does not mean a failure to recognize moments in history that we failed to live up to our greatest aspirations but an acknowledgement that in our striving to be better is where our greatness lies. This must be shared, and our values cultivated in our youngest generation. Who better to do so than our veterans.

The inability to love a nation and an unwillingness to fight for her is a national security threat. Our toughest battles may yet be ahead. Yet, we will be unable to fight if we do not begin to elevate and embrace all that unites us.

Veterans can remind us of how to love our country, again. I am proud to be of their ranks.

Keith Kellogg is a retired Army Lieutenant General who was an Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor to President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. Kellogg is the author of the new book "War By Other Means: A General in the Trump White House". He is currently Co-Chair of the Center for American Security at the AFPI.

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