Veterans Day is a day to honor those who have worn the uniform of the armed forces. How should we honor veterans? The most obvious answer is by having a Veterans Day in which we pay tribute to and thank those who served. We build monuments, cenotaphs, memorials and museums. We listen to speeches and patriotic music, and watch parades. And we take time to thank individual veterans.
We also honor veterans by honoring those who picked up the torch and followed in their perilous footsteps. Not only should we thank those who wear the uniform today, but we must also make sure they are provided the means to carry out their missions and that they get the benefits promised them for their service.
We also honor our veterans by honoring the principles for which they served. It is a day to honor them because they choose to stand between tyranny and freedom and evil and good. They raised their hand and took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all foes foreign and domestic.
A month or so ago President Barack Obama used the term “American exceptionalism” in a speech. Within days Russian President Vladimir Putin not only challenged our president, but also did so mockingly. Putin questioned the very idea of America being exceptional and challenged us to provide an answer.
It is a fair question and if we cannot provide a response, perhaps we are not as exceptional as we would like to think. And providing a response in some ways runs counter to one of the beliefs we hold dearly: all people are created equally.
But there is an answer to both “are we exceptional” and “why”? Yes, America is exceptional. The reason can be found in looking at just one document. It is America’s Constitution.
It is this document that sets America apart from other nations. It is this document that contains in it the principles upon which we stand. It is this document by which we live. And it is this document that embodies the principles for which we are willing to die. It is both the foundation upon which our nation is built and it is the cement that holds us together.
Uniquely in the world we have a document that makes us one people, regardless of where you trace your American beginnings. Whether you’re a new immigrant or trace your roots to the founding of the nation or before. Whether English is your native language or not, as long as one stands for upholding and protecting our Constitution, we are all Americans.
It is what our veterans fought for. And for them and for those who gave their lives for it, we must continue to protect the principals that are found in this singularly powerful document.
The Constitution is not to be trifled with. It contains within it a mechanism for change and it is that mechanism and only that mechanism that should be used to change its meaning. Allowing one person or one court to change the fundamentals of our Constitution weakens us all. It is our responsibility to elect only those who will uphold this most important document and hold accountable those entrusted to enforce it.
Most of us memorized the preamble to the Constitution:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
The primary drafter was James Madison assisted by Gov. James Morris. Associate Justice James Wilson has been called the unsung hero of the Constitution. Adopted Sept. 17, 1787 (Sept. 17 being Constitution Day), it took effect March 1, 1789, and has been amended 27 times. It was the first of its kind. The word “democracy” is not used in the Constitution. Over 100 countries have based their constitutions on the U.S. Constitution.
John Adams referred to the Constitution as “the greatest single effort of national deliberation that the world has ever seen” and George Washington wrote to the Marquis de Lafayette that “It (the Constitution) appears to me, then, little short of a miracle.”
It is signed: “Done in convention by the unanimous consent of the states present the seventeenth day of September in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven and of the independence of the United States of America the twelfth.”
Of the 55 delegates who attended the convention, almost half were Revolutionary War veterans.
On this Veterans Day as we pay rightful tribute to those who served, let us remember the principles for which they served. Let us honor them by protecting and by defending the Constitution of the United States.
Lickness is a resident of San Diego and served in the infantry in the Vietnam War.