General Dempsey on How Americans Can Serve Together With Veterans
It’s time to move beyond yellow ribbons and welcome home ceremonies to a deeper understanding of those who have volunteered to wear the uniform. By Gen. Martin Dempsey
Over the last 13 years of war, the American people have provided unwavering support to our military family. Honoring our service members at sporting events and parades, in airports, and on social media has become something of a ritual of American life. Make no mistake, today's veterans and members of the military deeply appreciate these gestures. But it is time for something more. When the applause in stadiums and ballparks stops, it should be followed by a handshake, and then a conversation about how we can serve our nation together.
The conversation between the military and the American public needs to move towards deeper dialogue and understanding. Veterans of the post-9/11 generation - like those from previous generations - prefer understanding to veneration, and they desire opportunity over charity. Veterans do not seek to be defined as either heroes or victims, but rather as members of the American community, committed to working with their fellow citizens to serve the common good.
Service is a foundational part of who we are as Americans. It's in our DNA-the greatness of our nation stems from a collective willingness to help others. And that desire to serve isn't limited to the military. We see it in police officers, fire fighters, teachers, coaches, pastors, scout masters, business people, and so many others who serve their communities every day. No matter the uniform, we share in this dedication to helping others.
To that end, as a part of a "Commitment to Service" initiative, 50 service members from Fort Hamilton and I recently worked alongside National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver and members of the Brooklyn Nets to support the fight to end hunger in New York City.
In the coming weeks, we will see service members working alongside ball payers to renovate homes in Miami, mentor youth in Chicago, and help the elderly and the homeless in Atlanta and Boston. By partnering through "Commitment to Service," athletes and military members are working together-on panels, workshops, and service projects to make a difference. These efforts showcase leadership, service, and teamwork. And while these are values we hold dearly in the military, they are shared values that are important to all Americans.
So "Commitment to Service" is not a military appreciation program focusing on what Americans can do for service members. Rather, this initiative focuses on what we in uniform can do together with our fellow citizens for our nation. It is about creating stronger bonds among veterans, athletes, citizens, and the communities in which we live and serve.
Every day I am honored to represent the men and women who make up today's military. It has been my privilege to tell their story to the American people. Often untold, however, is the story of their commitment to their local communities and their desire to continue serving when they take off the uniform, whether at the end of the day or at the end of their military career.
The "Commitment to Service" initiative is just one way of showcasing those contributions.
More broadly, these events and conversations give us an opportunity to move beyond yellow ribbons and welcome home ceremonies to a deeper understanding of those who have volunteered to wear the uniform, so that our military remains tightly connected to those we serve. And, importantly, it is an opportunity to build a common and enduring commitment to service across the nation.
On this Veterans Day, I hope many more Americans will join us.