Veterans Organizations, Worthy of a Great Society
By U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel
The 4th of July is America's birthday and a celebration of America's freedom. America's veterans organizations like the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), Purple Heart and others have played a critical role in preserving our freedoms. Veterans organizations are as important today as any time in the history of our country. They help connect our society to the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform.
When I grew up in western Nebraska in the 50's and 60's, there was an assumption that you had a responsibility as an American to serve your country. Small town activities centered around veterans organizations. My brothers and I, like all young people at the time, inherited a spirit of contribution, patriotism and a sense of who we are as Americans from veterans organizations.
Much has changed since that time, but the integration of commitment, service and responsibility to a cause more noble than one's own self-interest continues to anchor our country. It is as American as any one part of our culture. That culture of service and sacrifice is recognized and celebrated on the 4th of July.
Members of veterans organizations serve as role models for the new generation of American veterans returning from duty in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. It is important that this generation of veterans becomes as much a part of the fabric of our society as the generations of veterans before them. I was part of a new generation of veterans when I returned from Vietnam and was shaped and influenced by the World War II and Korean War veterans who served before me, just as they were shaped by the World War I veterans before them. The veteran legacy that is preserved by veterans organizations ensures that the sacrifices they made will not be lost to history. The 4th of July is a recognition of that legacy.
Veterans organizations can help frame the large issues of war and peace and important issues close to members of the Armed Forces and their families. Veterans understand that war is complicated and has consequences. Their involvement and judgement is critical as America continues to face the challenges of war and address the needs of the veterans who fight them. Educational scholarships and programs to aid military families with their financial needs exemplify a continued spirit of service, sacrifice and duty that veterans organizations embody.
Members of the American Legion, VFW, DAV, PVA, VVA, Purple Heart and all veterans organizations spend a lot of time contributing to their communities. Their involvement, judgement and participation is as important today as it ever has been. Veterans' dedication and leadership has helped form a firm foundation of American values and traditions. On this 4th of July, we celebrate America's birth, our great traditions and honor our heroes.