From sea to shining sea, from pasture to prairie, and city to town, parades will pass, trumpets will blare, and drums will roll. Stiff fingered salutes atop perfect postures. Flags waved from the masts of giant buildings, the yards of modest houses, and the fists of tiny children.
In speech, sermon and rant, military, religious and civilian troubadours will sound the familiar refrain... 'there is no more noble sacrifice than that which one makes for one's country.'
No one will question the sacrifice. Many will question the cause.
Veterans' Day is a national celebration but in many parts of the nation veterans are mistreated and ignored. Even those of national prominence. Take for example Max Cleland and Tammy Duckworth.
In 2002, the voters of Georgia elected Saxby Chambliss over veteran war hero Max Cleland, and in Tuesday's election, the people of the 6th Congressional District of Illinois elected Peter Roskam over veteran war hero, Tammy Duckworth.
Sadly, the voters who made these choices lacked the necessary understanding to appreciate the significance of this Day.
It takes the gift of greatness to nearly die for one's country and retain the desire to serve. Yet this nation is fortunate to have a good many veterans who do just that. Some take on the commitment to serve their fellow veterans upon their returns back home. Some enter politics, using their military experience, extraordinary discipline, and cooperative skills as legislative tools.
As candidates they run honorable campaigns which prove them worthy of the offices they seek. They rely on intelligence, education, courage in the face of adversity, commitment to country, and proven self-sacrifice to get them through. They have no need for lies and distortion.
We elect them to serve and they serve us well.
Senator John Kerry. Senator Bob Kerry. Senator George McGovern. Senator Dan Inouye. Congressman Charlie Rangel. President Jimmy Carter. Vice President Walter Mondale. Congressman John Conyers. Congressman John Dingell. Senator Tom Harkin. Senator Bob Dole. Congressman John Murtha. And many many more...
They're not your typical politicians. Take for example Army Captain Max Cleland, gravely wounded in Vietnam, and Illinois National Guard Major, Tammy Duckworth, gravely wounded in Iraq. Not dynastic progeny. Not the sons of famous fathers. Not the uber-rich who can purchase their own elections.
Quite the contrary. These are exceptional candidates with qualities greater than inherited wealth and fame. They are bonifide patriots who've put their lives on the line for their country, legitimately earning a seat at the table. A Seat in the Senate. Or a Seat in the House.
Barring aberration of character or limited mental acuity, a veteran, particularly one who has sacrificed greatly, deserves deference above those who have not. Or so it would seem to those who support the nobility of service. To those who believe that veterans have earned their just reward.
But the voters of Georgia who dishonored triple amputee Max Cleland in his bid for reelection to the Senate, showed no understanding that the nobility of service should have its just reward. They permitted Cleland's heroism to be dragged through the mud. They permitted his visage to appear amidst images of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. They accepted the brutal lies of delusional Ann Coulter and fell prey to the divisiveness of Karl Rove. And ultimately, they rescinded Max Cleland's right to continue to serve his nation.
In an act of unconscionable ignorance, resulting from an egregrious campaign of character assassination, the voters of Georgia awarded Max Cleland's well earned and well managed seat in the United States Senate to Saxby Chambliss, a military evader.
Max Cleland had every qualification for office. In addition to his military service, he was a highly educated man. He'd earned a Bachelor's Degree from Stetson University studying history and politics, and a Master's Degree at Emory University in 1968.
Max Cleland had worked hard to serve the people of Georgia as a soldier and as a Senator. Rather than acknowledging Cleland's achievements on campaign finance reform, tax and commerce issues, voting reform, technology use, and improving conditions for the armed forces, Georgians acquiesced to the personal attacks on his character. They disabused his service to their state and his sacrifice to their nation. They rewarded Saxby Chambliss' appalling campaign by electing him to the Senate.
One would think that a superb education, a successful term in the Senate, and sacrificing three limbs to protect his fellow soldiers, should have qualified Cleland for reelection. How much more can one person give? How many sons and daughters of Georgia can claim so storied a life and such service to their country? I'd venture to say, very few!
For participating in the abuse of Max Cleland, the voters of Georgia have a hard time proving they are veterans' supporters. They chose abdication of duty over service to country. Veterans' Day is forever tarnished in Georgia.
The people of Illinois' 6th Congressional District who elected Peter Roskam over Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth in Tuesday's election, should also be ashamed. They chose as their Representative a man whose previous campaigns were investigated by the Illinois Attorney General and the Internal Revenue Service. They chose a man who was investigated for suspected scams by the Daily Herald and Chicago Tribune. They chose a former Assistant to Tom DeLay. They chose a man who never did military service.
Sadly, and ashamedly, the voters of the 6th District of Illinois chose a man of minor distinction over Major Duckworth, a decorated war veteran who made an unimaginable sacrifice to her nation. A Commissioned Officer in the Army Reserves who chose to fly helicopters to secure one of the few combat jobs available to women.
The voters of Illinois chose a man who shunned military service over a highly trained professional. Over a woman so self-possessed, that she landed a Black Hawk helicopter after both her legs were destroyed.
Tammy Duckworth's feats of courage are astounding. Not just in combat but in her post combat life, as well, where she battled back from the loss of three limbs to return to full productivity. In fact, Tammy Duckworth is such an inspiration that former Republican Senator Bob Dole dedicated part of his book, "One Soldier's Story" to her.
Like Max Cleland, Tammy Duckworth is also highly educated. Prior to her deployment to Iraq she was working toward a Ph.D in political science at Northern Illinois University.
How much more deserving or impressive must a candidate be to win an election in Illinois' 6th Congressional District? Tammy Duckworth worked tirelessly throughout her campaign, maintaining a rigorous schedule just two years after losing her legs and the use of one arm.
It is unfathomable that Peter Roskam could have proved to the voters of Illinois that his patriotism, valor and leadership were so superior to Duckworth's that he should win a seat in the House for which she nearly died. The voters of Illinois' 6th Congressional District have soured the celebration of this Day. As have the voters of Georgia.
On this Veterans' Day, when the parades roll through the state of Georgia and the 6th Congressional District of Illinois, the supporters of Chambliss and Roskam would be wise to remain inside.