This Veterans Day, Safeguard Our Greatest National Treasure

11/11/2011 08:35 am ET | Updated Jan 11, 2012
  • Tammy Duckworth U.S. Representative from Illinois' 8th Congressional District

Veterans Day is a time to celebrate the men and women who have worn this nation's uniform and to honor their service. When the nation called and asked, "Who among you will step forward and defend the Constitution? Who will leave your families, your home in order to protect what we hold most dear?" it was our servicemen and women who answered that call and said, "I will. I will leave all that I hold most dear in order to protect liberty for others, for those who I will never meet. And if I must, I will lay down my life to protect this nation that is a beacon of Democracy all."

Today, less than one percent of our nation serves in uniform. These men and women, along with their families, have sacrificed so much for us. That's why today should also be a time for all of us, as a nation, to think about what we can do in return. Even as we are bombarded with Veterans Day sales and shopping discounts, our Veterans struggle with trauma born of their service. They are looking for jobs so they can support their families. For those currently standing their watch in hostile fronts around the world, they look homeward and wonder if the nation will be there for them upon their return. Our Vietnam Veterans and our Veterans of The Forgotten War in Korea know what it is like to come back to a nation that does not always remember or honor their service.

Fortunately, our nation has grown beyond this terrible past, thanks to the leadership of these same Veterans who have been there to welcome home my comrades from Iraq and Afghanistan. We owe it to all our Veterans to make sure they have a chance to achieve the American Dream, just like the rest of us.

As a nation, we need to do everything we can to make sure those who have served have the tools they need to succeed in civilian life. As individuals, I encourage all of you to find ways to thank and serve our Veterans. To get started, you can check out this list of resources on my website.

While you and I go on with our daily lives, remember that tonight -- indeed at this very moment -- there are men and women who are resolutely manning their posts, answering our nation's call. There is a popular saying among Veterans that our service members write a check to the nation for payment at a cost up to and including their lives. Our military men and women are our greatest national treasure. They should be safeguarded as such upon their return. They have never asked to be thanked, but we can never thank them enough.