COMMENTARY: The Ultimate Display of Citizenship

The holiday we now celebrate as Veteran’s Day was originally called Armistice Day in tribute to the end of World War I on November 11, 1918. Sadly, the “war to end all wars” didn’t accomplish that goal. In 1954, Congress officially changed the name to Veteran’s Day.

Too often we think of the term “citizen” only in terms of rights. Yet the veterans we thank today demonstrated their citizenship in terms of responsibilities.

In our age of entitlement, President John F. Kennedy’s invocation that we ask not what our country can do for us but what we can do for our country may seem foolish to some. But it’s those who fritter away their lives in nothing more than shallow self-indulgence who are the fools.

In 1995, an Air Force pilot named Scott O’Grady was shot down during a flight over Bosnia. He was rescued by helicopter after surviving six days of being hunted by hostile ground troops. He returned home to a hero’s welcome, but he denied being a hero.

Looking back on what drove him to serve his country with honor and valor, he said, “It isn’t the reward that matters or the recognition you might harvest. It is your depth of commitment, your quality of service, the product of your devotion. These are the things that count in life. When you give purely, the honor comes in the giving. That is honor enough.”

In a few weeks when you celebrate Thanksgiving, remember that thousands of Americans — sons, daughters, parents, husbands, and wives — are risking their lives daily on your behalf. To take a special moment to express gratitude for their service and to say a prayer for their safe return is your duty.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

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