Reclaim Patriotism

05/25/2011 12:05 pm ET

This Memorial Day weekend, millions of Americans will visit memorials, great and small, public and private, of the men and women who have selflessly given their lives fighting America's wars. Many of them will come here, to the nation's capital, where they will view the names at Vietnam, the eerie likenesses at Korea, the far too many stars each representing far too many Americans at World War II. Whether it's the first time they've thought of it all year, or whether they live with the pain of loss every day, the notion of the sacrifice of America's veterans will be forefront in the minds of all.

Over 3000 more brave patriots will unfortunately be added to these rolls before the completion of our part in the war in Iraq, a war that daily becomes less and less about fighting terrorism, and more and more about refereeing a domestic power struggle played out with bullets and bombs. Calling for the return of our troops from their current incongruous position in Iraq does nothing to dishonor these dead; the aims of American armed conflict have always been the aims of politicians, the ends sought always the desires of the civilian leadership of the military the founding fathers so wisely instilled in the constitution. No soldier dies in combat for nothing; we fight for the men and women next to us, we risk our lives to save them.

The day has come to reclaim patriotism in America, and I'm proud to support John Edwards as a candidate who will challenge our great citizens to meet this worthy challenge. It is a patriotism of action, of sacrifice, of more than just miniature flags and car magnets and empty catch phrases. It is a patriotism of returning America to her rightful role as leader by example, and away from our failed experiment as an imposer of ideology. It is a patriotism that understands that the best way to defeat the enemies of America is to work to ensure that potential enemies are instead turned into future friends. It is a patriotism that realizes that our choices here at home today affect our decisions to commit -- or NOT commit -- military forces tomorrow.

I urge everyone to support John Edwards' call to reclaim patriotism through action. Make a small sacrifice of your time or money in honor of the ultimate sacrifice that many thousands of our service members have made for us. Give to or volunteer for great organizations like the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans or Vietnam Veterans of America, or at VA hospitals and clinics. Spend time meeting and talking with others about how America should use her military might for justice in the world, learn about our wounded veterans and the crises they face from a failed disability rating system, shrinking access to care, and new health challenges like PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury. Make some changes in your home and in your commute to conserve energy, to help create a nation that one day will no longer have to engage in acts of war to secure scarce resources.

And the next time you thank a vet for our service, tell us about it. We'll thank you back.

William Edwards is a defense contractor and Army Reservist living in Arlington, VA. He was a company commander in Iraq from April 2003 to July 2004.

For more information, visit Support the Troops. End the War.