06/07/2013 12:51 pm ET Updated Aug 07, 2013

It's Up to Us

"And let each one perform some part,

To fill with joy the warrior's heart,
And we'll all feel gay
When Johnny comes marching home"

"When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again" was an immensely popular song and was sung by both sides in the American Civil War. It expressed people's longing for the return of their friends and relatives who were fighting in the war between brothers.

Today we are fighting another kind of civil war in our hearts and minds. Our military warriors are coming home from foreign lands to a country still divided by internal strife. America is riddled with dissension and ideological standoffs over politics, religion, gender bias, racial and sexual prejudice, the economy, the environment, jobs, health, education and the role of government -- just to mention a few of the ways we tend to disagree. And we are again reminded that during the Civil War the most famous Republican who ever lived said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

What are we to do? Where do we go from here? Who will lead us? The answer is obvious. You will. And I will. We know it, we just don't want to admit it. We've become so accustomed to government and other structures doing everything for us that we tend to sit back and let "them" do it, unless there's a crisis of biblical proportions. Then when we've finally had enough, we stand up for ourselves and we always deliver.

Americans have historically done that. When a king took our money without giving us any rights we ultimately stopped complaining and started the American Revolution. When we disagreed about the enslavement of other human beings, we argued until some states tried to secede before we finally stood up to fight for our union. It took a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor to get us to stop debating and start fighting Fascism. It took 911 to get us to finally and seriously pay attention to the threat of international terrorism. But we did it. We always do it. Well guess what? In an era of political gridlock, financial shenanigans of all sorts, stubbornly high unemployment, decaying infrastructures, skyrocketing health care, food, education and energy costs, It's again time to stop watching and talking. It's time to get off the sidelines and get in the game. Not "them." You and me.

But there's good news amid all these challenges. We have more tools and more smarts at our disposal than our forebears ever had. Our challenges may be greater, but so are we. And we have a huge asset that we tend to forget about and it's staring us right in the face. Our vets.

As a result of our self-involved, polarized, niche oriented, fast-paced and disposable culture, we tend to stereotype people and assume we know their destiny. Veterans for example, when they are in service, are viewed as our warriors, protectors, peacemakers and heroes. But after they return home, while we pay them tribute with words and parades and media attention, when the initial hoopla and knee-jerk sentiments are over, we either forget about them or worry that, because of what they've experienced, they will add to the problems we're already dealing with unemployment, health care, violent crime, drug use and homelessness.

WRONG! These brilliant comrades in arms are an answer to our prayers and a solution to our most persistent problems.

Think about this. WE THE PEOPLE invest over $150,000 in each soldier just to give them basic training and an additional $850,000 per year to maintain them and teach them other skills. Moreover, they do not lose these skills and this experience of working as a team when they are discharged; it's just dissipated because we haven't thought enough about how to align their collective voice, ideas, and talent sets. If we do, they can not only build their own future, but they can use their voice, their skills and their experience to positively impact the whole country.  That's our goal. That's what we want to do for them and for all of us.

So let's not be so fast to forget about our veterans or put them in a stereotypical and convenient box. Let's think out of the box about how to utilize their skills, give them a continued mission and purpose and, in the process help each other to a better more sustainable future.

"And let each one perform some part,

To fill with joy the warrior's heart,
And we'll all feel gay
When Johnny comes marching home"

In the coming weeks I'll be writing more about how you can get involved in making life better for our vets, ourselves, our children and grandchildren.

Please visit our website at and find out how to get in the game.

You can also like us on Facebook, Tweet us @opsusa_vet, email your contacts to

You can even pick up the phone and tell a friend. You have lots of them. They're all around you. And some of the best of them are veterans. We can do this.

It's Up To Us

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