Veterans Day has always held a special place in my heart, partly because ours is a military family.
My father was a physician in the Army, my father-in-law was a gunner in World War II. My husband is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and served in the 6th Fleet. Now my son-in-law proudly serves as an officer in the U.S. Air Force.
But it doesn't take a family connection to understand and be thankful for America's honorable Armed Forces, and for all those, past and present, who make it so.
America's military is the strongest on earth—and not just because of its power, but because it sits on an enduring foundation of righteous principle that was laid at our nation's birth by our first commander in chief.
In Paul Johnson's biography of George Washington, he wrote that Washington saw his role in the resistance against the Crown of England as "not merely lawful, but a moral obligation. He never deviated from this belief, which was the ultimate source of his energy and determination to win, especially when times were bad."
America's founders understood that their cause—though it was one of rebellion and violent revolution—was a righteous one. As they outlined in the Declaration of Independence, "That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends [life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness], it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles."
These godly principles are the reason why America was able to produce something beautiful out of the perils and chaos of its Revolutionary War. Many other revolutions throughout history have had militaries that displayed tremendous power or resolve, but legions of them fell victim to that very same power. In his book Washington: The Indispensable Man, James Flexner wrote: "Almost every revolution in the history of the world, however idealistically begun, had ended in tyranny."
George Washington's sterling character and his commitment to principles and to his fellow patriots set the tone and foundation that all branches of our military would build upon, and that our finest men and women in uniform still follow to this day.
Enduring commitment to honor, coupled with an understanding that it is our Creator who gives us value and inherent rights, is the only force strong enough to protect men from the all-corrupting nature of power. It is the only reason why our nation—made up of sinful, corruptible men, just like any other nation—has remained good, even as our military’s might has grown and far surpassed all others.
America has remained strong and good because our service members have dedicated themselves to the enduring principles found in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution. Each branch of the military also has its own unique code and expressions of core values, all rooted in America's principles, which our military heroes cling to.
Although their pledges are comprehensive, I have highlighted but a few points that illustrate the righteous foundations of our armed forces:
• The Air Force's Core Values are powerfully succinct and all-encompassing: "Integrity first. Service before self. Excellence in all we do."
• This phrase from the Navy Ethos is equally inspiring: "We are patriots, forged by the Navy's core values of Honor, Courage and Commitment."
• The beautiful Soldier's Code says, in part: "I am an American soldier—a protector of the greatest nation on earth—sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States. I will treat others with dignity and respect and expect others to do the same."
• The Coast Guard Creed includes: "I shall live joyously, but always with due regard for the rights and privileges of others. I shall endeavor to be a model citizen in the community in which I live."
• And, of course, the motto for every Marine is "semper fidelis" (Latin for "always faithful"), representing the bedrock commitment Marines have to each other, America's first principles and our great nation.
In honor of Veterans Day, I encourage you to read our Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, and to take the time to truly know the principles on which our nation stands, to understand exactly what it is our men and women in uniform are willing to lay down their lives to protect. Read and reflect on the codes and values by which they train and serve, and you will most likely become a better citizen in the process.
See for yourself how America's enduring principles are the cornerstone of our nation's strength and goodness, and sincerely thank the warriors, past and present, who make America possible.
This column first appeared in The Washington Times.