#ServiceDoesntStop: Veterans Day 2018 Recap

by Cate Klepacki

Each year, on Veterans Day, America honors those who served. This past weekend, towns held parades, families visited graves, and veterans shared memories with their loved ones.

At Veterans for American Ideals, we commemorated Veterans Day in a familiar way: we served. VFAI leaders in fifteen places across the country (see list below) stepped up by coordinating  service projects and co-hosting events with the Travis Manion Foundation, The Mission Continues and other local veterans organizations. Together we took some time to improve our neighborhoods and show that we are stronger together.

Dallas, TexasAtlanta, GeorgiaCharlotte, North CarolinaNew Bern, North CarolinaRichmond, VirginiaLos Angeles, CaliforniaBoulder, Colorado; Chicago, Illinois; Austin, TexasWashington, DC; Somerville, Massachusetts; Houston, Texas; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Jacksonville, Florida; NYC, New York (Still upcoming, this Friday night!)  

VFAI leaders also used the day—and the platform it provides—to speak up. Our leaders penned op-eds in Kansas City, Winston-Salem, Houston, Philadelphia, Denver, Detroit, and Los Angeles. VFAI founder and my dear friend Scott Cooper was featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition, where he shared how all of us are working to bridge political divides.

On a personal level, this weekend was also a chance for me to reflect on my own service. The military was difficult, serious, and sometimes exhausting work. We didn’t always succeed, far from it.  Yet when I think about my nearly 13 years in the Air Force, what I feel, more than anything else, is determination to continue serving.

Those who serve in the military make a commitment to support and defend the Constitution. Despite its many flaws, the United States remains a nation grounded in the notion that all people should be treated as equals, that human rights should be universally recognized and respected, and that every person should be afforded the same opportunity to succeed.

That to which we aspire—freedom, equality, dignity and respect for all—is what makes us Americans. The idea that people from all walks of life could come together and form a nation in which all are respected and all have the opportunity to thrive is at the core of our democracy. Community doesn’t just happen. Community requires a commitment by each member to actively participate in shaping the world in which we want to live. We often have differing ideas about how to achieve our goals, but if each member of the community makes an effort to strengthen it, we can succeed.

I’m proud of my military service, but I believe, just as my fellow VFAI leaders believe, that service shouldn’t stop when we take off the uniform. We all have a shared responsibility to work to strengthen our communities. Rather than being afraid to talk to our neighbors, engage. Open a respectful dialogue with those who think differently from you. Before you share an article or a post on social media, pause to think critically about the information and take a moment to check the facts. Instead of accepting what you’ve heard about immigrants, asylum-seekers, or refugees, try to understand. Attend events where you can meet people from other places and cultures and try to understand their perspectives. Participating in this way has enabled me to appreciate my community from a broader perspective and has empowered me to become a better citizen.

Veterans Day is just one day, and there is work to be done year-round. There is no better way to honor veterans than to ensure that the United States protects the very values we signed up to defend. I encourage you to ask yourself what you can do to strengthen our shared community. When we unite we have the power to overcome any challenge.

Cate Klepacki is an Air Force veteran with 13 years of service and a leader with Veterans for American Ideals. She lives in Washington, D.C.