“Thank you for your service,” the gentleman said to the young Marine.
“Thank you for your support,” the Marine replied as they shook hands. Yet, that was not what the Marine really wanted to say.
He’s heard the words spoken to him quite a few times in his very short tenure as a Marine. Of course, prior to joining the corps he’d said it to airmen, sailors, soldiers, and Marines at every opportunity he’d been given. Most of the time, the men and women did not know how to reply. So this young Marine figured out quickly what he was going say if those words were ever spoken to him – “Thank you for your support.”
And still, that was not what he meant.
What he wanted to say was, respectfully, “What are you doing in service to our country?” or “What have you done to make your neighborhood such a great place to live?” or maybe even “Is your town a better place to live because you live there? What are you doing to make it better, to make it worth me fighting to protect?”
This Marine understood that not everyone was cut out for military service. He knew that there are any number of reasons that could prevent someone from having a job that involved protecting their community or serving it in other ways, like teaching or being a policeman. He also knew, though, that there were a million little things that anyone could do for their town, community, or neighborhood.
Alexis de Tocqueville stated nearly 200 years ago that, “America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”* He had visited our nation and compared it to his native France. Here he saw people who were genuinely kind to one another, helping each other in times of distress or during an illness. He witnessed fiery sermons from pulpits across the nation that stirred people to repentance, to stand for what was right and good.
There are still young men and women who are willing to stand for what is right and good, to protect us from enemies, both foreign and domestic. But are there still people who are making America worth fight for?
It really happens through the smallest things. There’s the army veteran who lives across the street who mows the grass for the widow down the road. There’s a neighbor who sees when the farmer’s cows get out of the fence, so he stops to herd them back up, then he helps the owner to rebuild the fence. We see the goodness in the small business owner who agrees to teach some homeschooled students how to dance so that they can truly enjoy their high school prom. He and his wife go to a social dance held each year at a school for deaf children and dance with them. There’s the friend who comes to care for the woman who’s had serious surgery. She stays for days and cooks, cleans, and makes certain that the woman is on the road to recovery. It’s in the woman who writes letters to a friend who has been incarcerated to encourage him. These things are not as big as wearing a uniform, carrying a weapon, and defending freedom, but sometimes the small things really are quite great.
America is great because America is good.
This is such a difficult election cycle. This writer has been overwhelmed at the animosity and division in our nation. Depending on who is elected and how they choose to run the nation, we could end up better than we’ve ever been, or in an ash heap of ruins. While America may not be great, we can still make it good. I, for one, am going to work toward that goal.
*Yes, de Tocqueville said it long before Hillary Clinton and Dan Quayle even thought it.